Revenge Of The Brands: Google Boycotted, Adland's 'Rock Stars' Called Out

There's only one story in town today. The Government, TfL, L'Oréal, The Financial Conduct Authority and The Guardian have boycotted Google's YouTube until it can provide a safe environment in which to advertise.

It's the latest installment in an investigation from The Timeswhich found that many brands were inadvertently funding extremists through advertising placed next to their hate speech videos. The only real surprise is that it has taken the aforementioned organisations a couple of weeks to instigate a ban and that more have not joined in the boycott.

This year is turning out to be the year that advertisers grow a spine. We might well look back on it as a movie entitled "Revenge of the Brands." It's interesting to note that agencies haven't boycotted Google. Johnny Hornby -- who is founder of The&Partnership, which is backed by WPP -- suggested that the tech giant be given until Cannes to sort itself out by tackling ad fraud and providing a safe place for advertisers to spend their budget. That's a three-month warning window. The brands mentioned at the top here have acted today, decisively.



Google has been on the offensive, saying that we must all sort this together. This is the biggest pile of horse manure that is constantly trotted out. It has been aired so many times, yet it still stinks -- and I can't imagine why anyone would give them a headline for it. The issue of brand safety is absolutely the responsibility of the publisher, and the same goes, as far as possible, for ad fraud.

Publishers should be doing far more to recognise bot activity and to either block it or not count a visit that looks like a bot as having served advertising. They also need to be the bouncers in their own nightclub. If there are people acting in an antisocial manner inside their establishment, they need to sort it out -- they can't expect their patrons to do it for them.

So let's put the whole "it's down to us all to work together" argument where it belongs -- the trash bin.

Google and Facebook were never going to do anything about their manifold problems until called out by the industry to do so. The only way this could happen is a boycott. The only way to stop this game of wasted budget and damaged brand image is to pick up your ball and take it home.

At the same time, I'm sensing a rebellion against the big stars of the intermediaries between advertisers and these mega publishers. Regular readers will know i was chatting with Britvic UK's marketing director just the other day about how brands don't want to fund huge London offices packed with agency staff all feeding off massive retainers. Instead, they want slimmed-down teams who work on a small retainer or entirely on project fees, bringing in freelance talent as and when needed. 

The really interesting way he summed all this up is -- and I'm paraphrasing -- that advertisers don't buy in to the "rock star" status of some of these massive agencies. By that he means the guys and their agencies who made fortunes in the '80s and '90s, so much so their initials are usually on the door, are no longer naturally assumed to be the only source of wisdom on what's best for a brand and how that strategy should be executed.

The notion that the only way you can go to market is to chuck a fortune at a well-known agency, typically named after its rock star founder, is under serious examination.

As a complete aside, Britvic and BBH announced they were parting ways this week as the drinks giant seeks a new creative agency.

So there you have it. Without specific reference to the BBH news, brands are beginning to rethink the old accepted method of working with agencies who called the shots because they were demigods. At the same time, they're taking direct action to stop their names funding hate and fraud.

This is direct action. Brands are taking a stand -- and it's about time. 

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