US Firms Pull Ads from YouTube Over Offensive Videos

US Firms Pull Ads from YouTube Over Offensive Videos

American multinational Johnson & Johnson has become the latest high-profile company to pause advertising on YouTube following recent revelations that ads are being inadvertently placed on channels that broadcast offensive videos.

In a short statement published on Thursday, the company said it wanted to ensure that its advertising didn’t appear alongside offensive content:

"The Johnson & Johnson Family of Consumer Companies takes this matter very seriously, and we have made the decision to pause all YouTube digital advertising globally to ensure our product advertising does not appear on channels that promote offensive content."

Wireless carriers Verizon and AT&T expressed similar concerns on Wednesday, joining a host of other firms that have already suspended their ads due to placement concerns. They include Sainsbury’s, Toyota Motor, Volkswagen, GlaxoSmithKline and the BBC.

A spokesman for AT&T said “We are deeply concerned that our ads may have appeared alongside YouTube content promoting terrorism and hate. Until Google can ensure that this won’t happen again, we are removing our ads from Google’s non-search platforms.”

In a separate release, Verizon stated: “We take careful measure to ensure our brand is not impacted negatively. Once we were notified that our ads were appearing on non-sanctioned websites, we took immediate action to suspend this type of ad placement and launched an investigation. We are working with all of our digital advertising partners to understand the weak links so we can prevent this from happening in the future.”

Ad placement became a hot topic during last year’s United States presidential election, with social networking sites like Facebook coming under fire for spreading “fake news.” It has come to prominence once again in recent weeks with Google coming under increased increased pressure for advertisements appearing alongside videos that feature homophobic or anti-Semitic messages.

The Times published an article last week that demonstrated how often Google’s programmatic advertising tools fail to prevent ads from appearing in front of videos by terrorists and hate groups. Google addressed the concerns in a blog post on their site:

“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. That’s why we've been conducting an extensive review of our advertising policies and tools, and why we made a public commitment last week to put in place changes that would give brands more control over where their ads appear.”

Google will be keen to resolve this issue as quickly as possible. Its net ad revenue worldwide from YouTube was $5.58 billion last year, according to New York-based research firm eMarketer.

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