Faaez Samadi
Mar 20, 2017

GroupM Malaysia speaks out over YouTube ad scandal

Agency calls for Google to make host of changes, but advises against pulling ads from YouTube.

Girish Menon
Girish Menon

GroupM Malaysia today released a formal statement outlining its position regarding the storm surrounding YouTube across the world over advertising risk and brand safety on its platform.

Following the most recent announcement in the UK that several organisations, including the British government, have pulled their ads from YouTube over concerns that their ads may be unwittingly funding extremist and/or inappropriate video content, GroupM Malaysia has spoken out about its response to the crisis.

The agency begins by noting that the issue is not a new one, and that it has “known and discussed with Google before that the process YouTube follows for curating content is not up to par with GroupM clients' industry standards on brand safety”. 

However, given that in the current climate “advertisers and agencies have to be seen to be taking affirmative action”, GroupM Malaysia says it has decided to take a public stance on the matter.

The agency categorically does not advise “a complete withdrawal of spends on YouTube”, instead saying that agencies and advertisers should demand the following:

  • Allow the opening of all platforms to third-party ad verification technology for ad fraud and brand safety.
  • Create and enforce more robust rules and guidelines for content categorisation and curation.
  • De-monetise all content that cannot be guaranteed as brand safe, especially new content.

Internally, GroupM Malaysia says its planners will present alternative video platforms to clients that “permit third-party ad verification [and] utilise an additional layer of intelligence to minimise risks on brand safety, ad fraud and low viewability for our clients.”

This additional layer includes using tools such as Grapeshot to provide “contextual negative targeting” to avoid unsafe content; use of automatic fraud-detection algorithms; use of ad verification partners to track viewability; and working with local publishers within GroupM’s Trust Marketplace.

Girish Menon, CEO of GroupM Malaysia, told Campaign Asia-Pacific: “This is a very critical development in the evolutionary roadmap of digital advertising and this incident will actually help to accelerate the adoption of best practices in the industry.

“So, while it seems like a crisis, this actually helps to focus everyone’s attention simultaneously on the key issues, and we are confident that we can get the digital media owners to adopt the best practices that we are all asking for.”

Menon said the agency’s digital specialists are following its “brand safety playbook” and setting up campaigns that “keep an updated list of keywords and placements to exclude non-brand-safe environments in YouTube,” and also updated and enforced blacklists and whitelists of sites and domains in the programmatic ecosystem.

YouTube’s troubles in Asia-Pacific continue in Vietnam, where the government is investigating the platform and some advertisers have also pulled their ads. 

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