Queensland tourism body in brand safety breach; Holden, Kia suspend YouTube advertising

Arvind Hickman
By Arvind Hickman | 27 March 2017

Australian brands have joined a global push to stop advertising on YouTube amid concerns about brand safety.

Holden and Kia have temporarily pulled ads on Google's video platform after the Australian Financial Review spotted their ads alongside videos by a men's rights and anti-feminist group.

The issue extends beyond companies, with government departments also at risk. A quick search on YouTube reveals an advert for Queensland government's tourism arm, Tourism and Events Queensland, placed against an anti-Muslim hate speech video titled, 'Priceless Reaction: This is how you silence a Muslim.'

AdNews has approached the tourism body and its media agency UM and is seeking broader industry views around how to better mitigate brand safety risks.

ThinkTV CEO Kim Portrate believes brands should opt for quality, premium content and tomorrow the Interactive Advertising Bureau will provide AdNews with guidance on how to tackle the issue.

This publication has previously found several Australian brands with ads against undesirable content, including Energy Australia, Optus, Foxtel and the University of New South Wales.

In the past month, there has been a global push by brands to halt advertising on YouTube and Google's Display Network following a Times investigation that found more than 200 organisations had their ads placed against inappropriate content.

Last week American companies, including AT&T, Verizon and Johnson & Johnson joined hundreds of companies in Europe to pause YouTube and GDN advertising until a solution is found.

To date, Australian organisations have resisted the boycott and were managing the situation internally with media agency partners and Google.

Kia and Holden's decision to halt advertising indicates their resolve is wearing thin and that the global push against unsafe brand environments is starting to have a trickle down effect on these shores.

For its part, Google has taken steps to improve brand safety controls and filters, while stepping up efforts to remove undesirable content and channels from advertising.

Media agencies accept that it is not possible to 100% guarantee brand safety when buying audiences programmatically, but take measures to mitigate these risks.

These include only buying inventory from white listed sites, using filters to prevent ads from appearing against undesirable content and constantly monitoring and updating white lists.

AdNews will investigate how these steps are having an impact on brand safety in the coming days.

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