YouTube Ads Controversy: How Extremist Content Is Making The Platform Lose Revenue


The YouTube Ads controversy erupted in Europe last week after the platform had major fallouts in discussions with advertisers who complained about their ads being featured alongside extremist videos.

It is easy to imagine why an advertiser would not want their ad inserted before or in the middle of extremist content like a Pro-ISIS video, it is a PR nightmare for any company and in this case not at all the fault of the company advertising.

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Google, which owns YouTube, was in talks with major media buying companies but the talks fell apart when the media giant could not stem fears about the YouTube Ads controversy. Big media buyers like Havas initially stated that it would pull all ads from both Google and YouTube in the U.K. but later backed off that promise, stating that it would instead call for a “short pause.”

This week, however, two of America’s largest advertisers abruptly pulled all advertising from YouTube. The advertisers in question, AT&T, and Verizon, said that they would no longer buy video or text ads on YouTube until Google meets unspecified requirements regarding brand safety.

YouTube Ads Controversy

AT&T and Verizon spend over $3.5 billion on measured media each year in the U.S. alone, according to Kantar Media, the two are a big loss for YouTube and when Johnson & Johnson which Kantar Media reports spends $1 billion in the U.S is also pulling advertising from YouTube, the picture gets even grimmer.

An AT&T spokesperson said of their move to pull advertising from YouTube;

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

Verizon also released a statement;

“Verizon is one of the largest advertisers in the world, and one of the most respected brands. 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.”

On Tuesday, Google’s Philipp Schindler responded to the YouTube Ads controversy with a blog post that promised “increased brand safety levels and controls for advertisers” by way of Google’s Partner Program and a much safer default settings on videos, among other changes.

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Given that AT&T and Verizon pulled out despite the reassurance, it is obvious that a lot of advertisers do not consider it good enough. For a platform that has become a huge source of income for many influencers and creatives, a lot of people are counting on Google to work out the YouTube Ads controversy as quickly as possible.