Advertiser exodus from YouTube grows to include AT&T, Verizon and GSK

23 Mar 2017

YouTube home screen. Image: pixinoo/Shutterstock

YouTube has had some bumps along the road in its 12-year history, but the latest exodus of advertisers has thrown the platform into a major crisis.

Video platform YouTube has found itself under the spotlight in recent years over its editorial decisions, and what its algorithms and staff deem inappropriate content.

Recently, its Restricted Mode setting blocked LGBTQ creators from sharing content about relationship advice, which drew negative criticism from activists who viewed it as a form of censorship.

YouTube issued a response that did not appear to address the issue, but admitted that it sometimes gets things wrong.

However, when anger erupted over its algorithms wrongfully advertising on videos that stream hateful content, the company was kicked into gear, fearing the loss of its greatest source of revenue.

Over the past week, advertising agencies have announced that they are pulling their clients’ adverts from YouTube after it was found that they were featured on videos promoting hate speech, declaring support for ISIS, for example.

Major household brands also found themselves associated with videos promoting sexism and white supremacy.

‘We know that this is unacceptable’

So far, advertisers such as McDonald’s, Toyota and Audi have withdrawn their adverts.

The latest significant brands to announce a boycott of YouTube are telecoms giants AT&T and Verizon, as well pharma groups GlaxoSmithKline and Johnson & Johnson.

According to Recode, a spokesperson for AT&T said: “We are deeply concerned that our ads may have appeared alongside YouTube content promoting terrorism and hate. Until Google can ensure this won’t happen again, we are removing our ads from Google’s non-search platforms.”

Earlier this week, Google responded with a lengthy post from its chief business officer, Philipp Schindler, who said that YouTube was deeply apologetic for this issue.

“We know that this is unacceptable to the advertisers and agencies who put their trust in us. That’s why we’ve been conducting an extensive review of our advertising policies and tools, and why we made a public commitment last week to put in place changes that would give brands more control over where their ads appear.”

YouTube and Alphabet will now likely be working overtime to try and fix the issue, as YouTube plays a key role in the company’s revenues – 85pc of it is generated from advertising.

YouTube home screen. Image: pixinoo/Shutterstock

Colm Gorey was a senior journalist with Silicon Republic