London: UK retailer Marks & Spencer Group Plc pulled advertising from Alphabet Inc.’s Google, joining other brands fleeing the search engine giant over concerns that their spots were appearing alongside offensive clips on its YouTube video-sharing site.
“In order to ensure brand safety, we are pausing activity across Google platforms whilst the matter is worked through,” M&S said in a statement Monday.
The move by the UK food and apparel seller adds to the pressure on Google to step up policing to prevent offensive material, such as videos promoting terrorism or anti-Semitism, from appearing alongside ads. Google said in a blog post Friday that it would give clients more control over where their ads appear on YouTube and the Google Display Network, which posts advertising to third-party sites.
Marks & Spencer acted after the UK government, the Guardian newspaper, grocer J Sainsbury Plc and other marketers pulled advertising from YouTube. French advertising company Havas SA said it was removing certain clients’ spots from the site after it failed to get assurances that they wouldn’t appear alongside offensive videos.
“We have strict processes in place to prevent our adverts from appearing alongside inappropriate online content,” Sainsbury said in a statement Monday. “It is unacceptable that Google is allowing our ads to be placed alongside these videos on YouTube.”
Matt Brittin, Google president for business and operations in Europe, the Middle East and Africa, apologized for the problem, saying the company was simplifying controls for advertisers and speeding up reviews of content flagged by users as potentially offensive.
“Our policies and tools work well in the vast majority of cases,” he said at an advertising conference in London on Monday. “We have a review underway on how to improve, which has been going on for some time, and we’re accelerating that review.”
Michael Roth, chief executive officer of Interpublic Group of Cos., warned that the New York-based advertising company would also pull ads from YouTube if it doesn’t police the platform more thoroughly to avoid awkward juxtapositions for advertisers.
“If they can’t fix it, we’re not going to participate,” Roth said at the conference. “They have to put systems in place that look at placement. The best way to fix it is to hold them economically accountable.”
Brittin declined to comment on the financial impact on Google. One big advertiser, Anglo-Dutch consumer-products company Unilever, said it was sticking with YouTube for now.
“We haven’t suspended in the UK on YouTube because we’re tracking the situation,” Chief Marketing Officer Keith Weed said at the Advertising Week event in London. “I will make the decision as and when.” Bloomberg