Google braced for questions as more big brands pull adverts

M&S, Sky, HSBC, Lloyds and RBS latest to pull ads after they were put beside extremist material

Google executives are bracing for a two-pronged inquisition from the advertising industry and UK government over the company's plans to stop ads being placed next to extremist material.

A slew of big-name companies, advertising firms and government departments have either pulled their adverts from Google and its YouTube video site, or are considering whether to do so.

UK retailer Marks and Spencer became the latest brand to pull advertising from Google, adding to pressure on the company to step up policing to prevent offensive material, such as videos promoting terrorism or anti-Semitism, from appearing alongside ads. “In order to ensure brand safety, we are pausing activity across Google platforms whilst the matter is worked through,” M&S said in a statement.

The retailer acted after the UK government, the Guardian newspaper, grocer J Sainsbury and other marketers pulled advertising from YouTube. French advertising company Havas SA said it was removing certain clients' spots from the site after it failed to get assurances that they wouldn't appear alongside offensive videos, while media giant Sky, HSBC, Lloyds and Royal Bank of Scotland added their names to a growing list over the weekend. Other major brands to pull their ads include McDonald's, L'Oreal, Audi and the BBC. Tesco is understood to have "paused" spending on YouTube.


The internet firm’s European head, Matt Brittin, is one of two Google executives due to speak at the annual Advertising Week Europe event, attended by every major company in the advertising world. Sources said Mr Brittin is aware he is likely to face a flurry of questions about how adverts for major brands ended up attached to videos by extremists, including hate preachers and former Ku Klux Klan leader David Duke. The ads help fund payments to the people who post the videos, with every 1,000 clicks worth about £6 (€6.92).

Explain themselv es

Mark Howe, head of Google’s agencies business in Europe, the Middle East and Africa, will also speak at the event. Mr Brittin will be among the first people to address delegates, speaking on Monday alongside Unilever’s chief marketing officer, Keith Weed.

Unilever declined to comment on whether it had suspended advertising through Google.

Mr Brittin’s appearance in front of luminaries from the advertising industry will kick off a week in which he and fellow executives will also have to explain themselves to UK government ministers.

Senior figures from the company were summoned to the Cabinet Office last week over concerns that UK taxpayer-funded adverts were appearing alongside “inappropriate” YouTube videos.

Google executives apologised but were told to come back to the Cabinet Office this week with a plan and a timetable to remedy the problem. Major advertisers have pulled business from the internet search engine in the past week, with Sky, becoming the latest to suspend their ads.

– Guardian News and Media, Bloomber