PR agency thoughts: Online advertising issues (the story develops)

Unless you’re a first time reader of our coveted PR agency blog, chances are you will have picked up on our recent posts regarding programmatic advertising, and how fake news is bad for business.
The programmatic principle basically involves automated media buying, meaning brands pay firms to place their online adverts without having to physically negotiate themselves- purchases are made with auto-bids via algorithms, positioning adverts on the most relevant sites.
Or at least that’s the way it works in theory.
[Tweet “#ProgrammaticAdvertising – the controversies continue – #PR agency thoughts from @SmokingGunPR”]
There’s a problem, though. Brands, and the national press, have become increasingly aware of how vulnerable this process is to going a little, well, wrong. Ads can, theoretically, wind up on less-than-desirable websites, meaning legitimate companies could find their logos and products placed on fake news websites- which isn’t good for reputations, and isn’t good for real news sites that could potentially lose sales, and therefore revenue, as a result.
Since we last wrote about these issues, though, the story has developed, and as natural news hounds we couldn’t help but update the yarn to reflect this. First of all, Facebook has introduced a new fact-checking tool, warning the public that content has been disputed by independent fact-checkers- suggesting more pressure will be on advertising to avoid these sites.
Additionally, Google has been blasted by the BBC, UK Government, Marks & Spencer, L’Oreal, and Audi- amongst others- for positioning their content next to extremist materials. Obviously this was not pre-meditated, and results from an automated process.
The fallout has been significant already, promoting an apology from Philipp Schindler, who heads up Google advertising, with many of the brands listed above now boycotting, or placing on hold, all ad spend on the subsidiary site, YouTube- which appears to be the main source of the problem.
[Tweet “300 hours of video per day uploaded to #YouTube – can #Google police? @SmokingGunPR”]
This story by BBC technology correspondent, Rory Cellan-Jones, offers more insight, fundamentally asking the big question- Can Google police YouTube?
It’s certainly quite the quandary, as this page of YouTube statistics shows- 300 hours of video per day are thought to be uploaded to the platform, many of which are open to having advertising clips attached to the beginning of the video. This alone gives some idea as to the task at hand.
So, what do you think- does the responsibility lie with Google to curb this? And on the same train of thought, does the buck stop with programmatic advertising agencies when it comes to ensuring that no brand buys space on sites that are having a negative impact on the media and society as a whole?
And if not, whose court does the ball land in?
[Tweet “Is #Google responsible for policing #YouTube – #PR agency thoughts from @SmokingGunPR”]

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