What YouTube’s Global advertiser boycott means for Google

Within the past decade, YouTube has become a video hosting giant used for entertainment, advertisements, music, businesses ventures and more. But has its growth finally come to a halt? In the past week major consumer brands have pulled their ads from YouTube after they started appearing alongside racist, misogynistic and extremist content.

The boycott was initiated in late February after the Times Newspaper found BBC programs advertised among videos posted by former Ku Klux Klan member David Duke. Following these findings, companies began pulling ads off the video hosting site. These companies include major consumer food, entertainment and auto-motive industries such as McDonalds, Coca Cola, PepsiCo, Johnson & Johnson, Walmart, Starbucks, General Motors, Telstra, Foxtel, Caltex, Holden and Kia Motors. Along with the growing number of organisations, the UK Government has also pulled its ads to boycott YouTube’s advertising platform.

YouTube has always struggled to manage and control the publishing of offensive content; and with over 400 hours of video uploaded onto the site every minute, it’s no surprise why. This, paired with the world’s highly volatile socio-political environment at the moment, has seen an increase in offensive and hateful videos posted. Thus, the possibility of a situation like this should not have come as a surprise. The boycott has since instigated an intense debate on retaining brand image while advertising online.

What does this mean for Google?

The boycott could cost YouTube’s parent company Google upwards of USD$750 million. While Google’s own search advertising has escaped the effects of the boycott, its stock price has taken a hit. Since the beginning of the boycott, Alphabet Inc.’s stock price has dropped from $872.37 to $835.14. Last year, YouTube alone earned over $11 billion via advertising costs – thus the potential harm of this boycott is immense unless action is taken.

Google’s future plans

Google's initial response failed to curb the boycott with the promise of more controls for marketers. Here’s what Google has rolled out for YouTube in an effort to curtail the boycott:

  • Improved ability to Flag offensive videos – Google’s chief business officer Phillip Schindler addressed the boycott by commenting on an improved ability to flag offending videos that will immediately disable ads. He projected that at least five times as many offensive videos have been flagged since the change.
  • Revamped Advertising Policy – Google announced their revamped advertising policy that would give YouTube Advertisers more control of ad placements on videos. Furthermore, they announced plans to update their algorithms that screen videos for offensive content through machine learning. Google also embarked on plans to set up a dedicated staff hotline for brand safety.
  • Banning Ads on Channels under 10K Views – Today, Google has announced that only approved creators whose channels pass 10,000 views will be allowed to host ads. Although this increases ad control, the question of whether it will completely prevent racist, misogynistic and extremist content is still prevalent.

Whether Google will be successful in stopping the boycott and bringing the advertisers back onto the site still remains to be seen. Stay tuned for more updates!

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