Hate content: Now, J&J, GSK, join others in suspending ads on Google

24 Mar 2017


A growing list of top US advertisers are scaling back their advertising with Alphabet's Google as the internet giant faces growing pushback from brands concerned that their ads will appear alongside offensive or controversial videos.

Johnson & Johnson, the world's largest healthcare company, is the latest business to suspend all YouTube advertising globally, while pharmaceutical giant GlaxoSmithKline said on Thursday that it is halting all its advertising on Google's digital technology platforms. And rental car company Enterprise Holdings said late Wednesday that it was also pulling ads from Google and YouTube.

"We have suspended all advertising through specific technology platforms that are used by Google to place adverts on digital sites such as YouTube," a GSK spokesperson said in a statement. "The placement of our brands next to extremist content is completely unacceptable to us and we have raised our concerns directly with Google."

The spokesperson added that GSK is "encouraged" by Google's efforts to develop additional safeguards for advertisers.

The moves follow similar action by telecom giants AT&T and Verizon, who on Wednesday said that they are suspending all of their advertising from Google's non-search platforms, which include YouTube (the second-most visited website on the internet, after Google itself) as well as third-party websites that Google partners to run advertising on. AT&T and Verizon were among the top US advertising spenders in 2015, with budgets of $3.9 billion and $2.7 billion, respectively.

A number of UK companies were the first to pull their advertising from Google earlier this week after it was discovered that their ads were being shown alongside videos from the Ku Klux Klan and others supporting terrorism. (See: Google slammed by UK advertises over failure to throttle ads on extremist content).

AT&T said in a statement it was "deeply concerned" that its ads may have appeared next to "YouTube content promoting terrorism and hate," while Verizon said it has been investigating claims of its ads being on "non-sanctioned" websites.

"We take careful measure to ensure our brand is not impacted negatively," Verizon said in a statement. "Once we were notified that our ads were appearing on non-sanctioned websites, we took immediate action to suspend this type of ad placement and launched an investigation."

"We are working with all of our digital advertising partners to understand the weak links so we can prevent this from happening in the future," the company added.

For its part, Google said it has also launched a review of its ad policies and is committed to making changes to it giving brands more control over where their advertisements appear. The company said in a statement that it's "raising the bar" for its ad policies to improve brand safety.

Google has faced mounting pressure to address the concerns as the bulk of the company's revenue is generated from advertising sales. In Alphabet's latest earnings, advertising revenue was $22.4 billion, while its total revenue for the quarter was $26.1 billion.

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