Big brand advertisers don’t like to have their messages appear next to terrorist recruitment videos – who knew? – which has become a major headache for Google’s YouTube platform. But it is also an opportunity for premium publishers to tout their trusted, non-terrorist-recruiting content as brand-safe ad environments.
For those readers who have been living under rocks, the quick backstory: Google, with access to some of the most powerful computing resources in the world, apparently failed to do basic due diligence when it came to brand adjacencies. That allowed ads from some of the world’s advertisers to appear next to videos posted by ISIS sympathizers, bigots spewing hate and other egregious sorts.
These revelations prompted advertisers like Johnson & Johnson, Coca-Cola and AT&T to place a moratorium on advertising on YouTube, while Google scrambles to repair the damage.
Premium publishers the world over can barely contain their glee as they commiserate with advertisers, patting them on the back and offering to help any way they can — perhaps selling some ads?
News Corp. CEO Robert Thomson led the charge on March 17, stating: “Advertisers need to go back to basics to protect their brands from serious damage and to protect themselves from being involved in potentially criminal activity, whether it be supporting extremist groups or funding hardcore pornography.”
Thomson returned to the attack this week, warning a conference audience in Hong Kong that the same old arguments from tech platforms will do nothing to protect brands from becoming collateral damage. “Google has been reactive in their response to controversy, and you do wonder whether they will start to invest more and frankly be more candid about their role as a publisher. They claim to be a technology company, and that absolves them of any responsibility of what they publish.”
Also this week, Vox Media CMO Lindsay Nelson tells AdExchanger that advertisers are learning an inevitable lesson about the limits of technology: “Marketers are recognizing in a blunt force way the difference between a platform and publisher… There will be a limitation to what a Google algorithm can control, versus a publisher like us being able to say that we own our own IP, the ad experience and the premium context.”
For clients seeking scale, Nelson touted premium publishing networks and audience extension tools like Vox’ Concert.
These sallies follow rumblings from Britain’s news media, calling for increased government oversight of the big tech platforms. Earlier this month, the UK’s News Media Association warned that the government needs to intervene to stop the spread of fake news, as well as cast light on the programmatic advertising techniques that have placed ads next to fake news.
NMA chairman Ashley Highfield cited these and other issues to argue against the growing power of the tech platforms, warning “the digital supply chain rewards the distributors of content, not the originators. Government and regulators cannot ignore forever the impact of the Google-Facebook duopoly on our media landscape.”
Back in the U.S., the Alliance for Audited Media is burnishing premium publishers’ credentials with a verification program for its members targeting ad fraud. Backed by the Association of National Advertisers, the AAM Quality Certification service helps minimize digital ad fraud by confirming that premium publishers adhere to all the best practices, including monitoring by AAM auditors of third party analytics and validation providers.