Google’s month of March has gone from bad to worse. Analysts this week have put a dollar figure on the cost of the ongoing advertiser boycott. The blunder is forecasted to cost the tech giant $750 million.
In February this year The Times revealed how some of the worlds largest brands were unwittingly funding Islamic extremism and white supremacists groups through YouTube advertisements.
The issue stems from Google’s programmatic ad trading and the automation of ad buying and selling. Advertisements are assigned to videos based on an automated process, generating revenue for the video creator.
The programmatic automation means advertiser discretion disappears. As a result, brands buying the ad space on YouTube find themselves effectively paying the content creators, despite their extreme material. And of course they are also inadvertently lending them brand credence.
Understandably, those brands were not pleased. The Guardian pulled all of their online advertising from Google and YouTube until they could be guaranteed ad misplacement would not happen in the future.
Following the Guardian, the U.K government also withdrew advertising with Google and YouTube, and summoned Google to the Cabinet Office to explain their actions. (The Australian government subsequently followed suit)
Much to Google’s dismay the Boycott spread to the U.S with Verizon and AT&T freezing their Google campaigns. Other American companies followed suit with Starbucks, PepsiCo and Walmart joining the now global boycott.
In Australia brands are spurning Google too until the issue is resolved. Holden, Kia, Foxtel, Bunnings were joined by Telstra this week in shunning YouTube. It seems the list will grow until the issue is resolved.
Google has issued an apology through their blog and chief business officer, Philipp Schindler. “Recently, we had a number of cases where brands’ ads appeared on content that was not aligned with their values. For this, we deeply apologize. We know that this is unacceptable to the advertisers and agencies who put their trust in us,” he said.
He went on to explain that the system will be reviewed and overhauled in an effort to improve brand safety and control.
One bit of good news for Google – analysts said that ultimately the boycott’s effect may not be as significant as the $750b figure suggests as campaigns return.