The Australian government has joined the hoards of advertisers dumping YouTube over concerns about ad placement alongside inappropriate content.

Australia Post, Tourism Australia, Telstra, Foxtel, Bunnings, and many more Australian and international advertisers have pulled advertising from automated placement on YouTube after a UK news report in The Times detailed how the UK government and respected brands were advertising alongside extremist and offensive content. Advertisements would appear as banners, or before videos, and had been reportedly seen on videos for Islamic extremists and white supremacists. YouTube passes a cut of revenue made from advertising on its videos onto the original uploaders of the videos — meaning the big brands’ ad spends were going towards these organisations.

Charles Sturt University lecturer in communications and digital media Travis Holland told Crikey brands had already been aware of the risks of automated advertising, but had felt they couldn’t pull out while all other advertisers were still using it.

“People previously knew what the problems were, but they weren’t willing to pull out because everyone else was there,” Holland said. “It’s been an interesting pile-on.”

Google, which owns YouTube, has indicated it is working on a solution to address the brand-safety concerns, but Holland said regardless of what Google does, advertisers will always go back to YouTube.

“Often what happens with boycotts is people will make a show of cutting a product for a period of time, and then they’ll faze it back in, and I’d say that’s likely to happen in this case,” he said.

Google Australia managing director Jason Pellegrino told AdNews last week that concerns about brand safety had been exaggerated.

And in a tough advertising environment, New Corp Australia has taken the boycott as an opportunity to spruik its own products. A full story in today’s Media section in The Australian was dedicated to the campaign, which News Digital managing director Nicole Sheffield told them was about “reassuring our customers that protecting and enhancing their brands is our number one priority”. — Emily Watkins

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