Diageo has put an immediate stop to advertising on YouTube following revelations that pedophiles are making inappropriate comments on videos uploaded by children to the site.
The videos feature boys and girls performing everyday activities such as cleaning their teeth or lying in bed, in some they can be seen partially clothed or in their nightwear.
An investigation by the BBC and The Times discovered YouTube’s system for reporting sexual comments on children’s videos has not been working for more than a year.
A Diageo spokesperson said: “We are deeply concerned and are investigating this as a matter of urgency. We always insist that our media providers adhere to the most stringent of precautions…We are enforcing an immediate stop of all YouTube advertising until…appropriate safeguards are in place.”
In response, a YouTube spokesman said: “There shouldn’t be any ads running on this content and we are working urgently to fix this”.
Johanna Wright, YouTube’s vice president of product management, promised tougher application of its user guidelines to remove inappropriate ads targeting families, block inappropriate comments on videos featuring minors and provide further guidance for creators of family-friendly content.
Google has also written a blog post titled “5 ways we’re toughening our approach to protect families on YouTube and YouTube Kids.” The post states that in the last week, YouTube has “terminated over 50 channels” and “removed thousands of videos” under guidelines that seek to protect against child endangerment.
It’s the second time this year YouTube has been under fire. The Association of National Advertisers called on Google to take steps to protect against placements on videos that used hate speech or inappropriate messaging. Brands including Johnson & Johnson, General Motors, Lyft, AT&T and Verizon pulled YouTube ads after it was revealed they were running on videos posted by white nationalists, anti-gay preachers and radical Islamic groups.
The latest brand advertiser exodus includes Amazon, Cadbury, eBay, Mars, Adidas, HP, Lidl and Deutsche Bank.
Mars has pulled out of Google’s broader ad offerings as well as YouTube.
“We have taken the decision to immediately suspend all our online advertising on YouTube and Google globally,” it said in a statement. “Until we have confidence that appropriate safeguards are in place, we will not advertise on YouTube and Google.”
Adidas said it was working closely with Google on “all necessary steps to avoid any re-occurrences of this situation”.
Deutsche Bank said in a statement: “We take this matter very seriously and suspended the advertising campaign as soon as we became aware of it.
A spokesperson for Lidl said it was “completely unacceptable that this content is available to view, and it is, therefore, clear that the strict policies which Google has assured us were in place to tackle offensive content are ineffective”.
“HP has immediately instructed Google to suspend all HP advertising globally on YouTube. We are deeply troubled to learn that one of our advertisements was placed in a terrible and inappropriate context. HP has strict brand safety protocols in place across all online advertising, including YouTube and this appears to be the result of a content misclassification by Google.” HP’s spokesman said.
Agencies caution advertisers about YouTube
AdNews has noted that “Google needs to accept it is a media owner and allow agencies and verification firms more autonomy to control the content that appears against advertising media industry experts have warned following the latest brand safety scandal.”
GroupM chief digital officer John Miskelly told AdNews that “ultimately it’s just impossible to manage the amount of content that gets put up there”.
GroupM has put in place a lot of controls, exclusion lists and has done a global deal with OpenSlate to vet videos before ads run against it.
“We’re comfortable with the level of brand safety controls we have in place but we would still challenge YouTube to allow more third-party measurements in there to allow us to plan even more safety controls on top of it and we will continue to ask them to do that,” he says.
“They have to acknowledge they are media owners, not just tech platforms,” he added. “I guess they still see themselves as the guys to provide the plumbing for all this stuff. We will keep on pushing Google, Facebook and Snapchat to accept that they are media owners and act like them.”
There have also been calls to allow agencies to use third party tools such as Moat, IAS or Grapeshot to put parameters around where the ads run.
Currently YouTube does not allow external verification technology to be used on the site.