Google apologized today for YouTube ads in the U.K. that appeared against videos touting extremist views, leading the British government as well as major brands like Marks & Spencer, HSBC, Audi, The Guardian, and L’Oréal to pull their British market advertising from the platform.
The revelation of the ad placements first appeared last month in The Times.
Ads ran against videos from former Ku Klux Klan Imperial Wizard David Duke; Muslim preacher Wagdy Ghoneim, who is banned from the U.K. for inciting up hatred; and fundamentalist Christian pastor Steven Anderson, the Financial Times reports. As a result of this discovery, research analyst Brian Wieser of Pivotal downgraded Google stock from buy to hold today, saying that the company faced “a serious issue in the U.K. with brand safety issues,” which could ultimately have “global repercussions.”
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Today, during a presentation at Advertising Week Europe, Google’s president of business and operations for Europe, The Middle East, and Africa, Matt Brittin, apologized for the ad placement and vowed that a fix was under way. “We have millions of dollars invested and thousands of people whose job it is to ensure bad advertising doesn’t get through,” he said, per the Financial Tmes. “We have a review under way and we are accelerating that review.”
As a result of the controversy, reports Reuters, the world’s biggest ad agency, WPP, said it was in talks with Google and other digital ad giants like Facebook and Snapchat about how to prevent future such occurrences, while competitor Publicis said it was reviewing its relationship with the search giant. Havas already suspended all of its British market YouTube ads.
After the U.S., the U.K. is Google’s largest market, according to Reuters, which notes that the company generated roughly $7.8 billion from advertising there in 2016 — amounting to about 9% of its stateside revenue.