With more big brands pulling ads from YouTube over extremist content, are they over-reacting?

Advertisers are angry at having their ads appear next to extremist content (Source: Getty)

Daniel Gilbert, founder of Brainlabs, says Yes.

Yes, it’s completely and utterly bonkers.

For a start, there’s nothing new here. Google’s platforms have been open for many years – user generated content is the foundation of YouTube – and there has always been questionable content that is eligible for advertising.

The events of the last couple of weeks are a knee-jerk reaction led by agencies and clients who are delighted that they have someone to blame. The bit that’s missing from the mainstream press is that you choose which sites or videos to appear against on Google’s platforms.

It’s not like you hand them over an advertising budget and they intentionally place it against terrorist videos out of spite. All their platforms are self-service – you can exclude different types of content, or choose to only show on certain channels to protect your brand.

So while Google is far from perfect, at least part of the responsibility lies with advertisers and agencies. They need to be more careful about where they place their ads. By now, they should know the risks of programmatic advertising and plan accordingly.

Johnny Hornby, founder of The&Partnership, says No.

Since last week, Google has so far neither said nor done anything that would make me advise any of our clients to advertise on YouTube.

Critically, there is no sign of Google putting an end to the marking of its own homework by allowing independent, third-party ad-verification software inside the walled gardens of YouTube – the key ingredient both to ensure brands’ safety and to give them the visibility and transparency they quite rightly demand in their digital advertising.

Google needs to start looking at brand safety from the other end of the telescope. Instead of allowing huge volumes of content to become ad-enabled every minute, and then endeavouring to convince advertisers that the dangerous and offensive content among it will be found and weeded out, Google should only be presenting advertisers with content it already knows to be 100 per cent safe, to protect the reputation of well-known and loved brands.

City A.M.'s opinion pages are a place for thought-provoking views and debate. These views are not necessarily shared by City A.M.

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