(Refiled to remove extraneous apostrophe in first paragraph)
March 20 (Reuters) - Google apologised on Monday for
allowing ads to appear alongside offensive videos on YouTube as
more high-profile firms such as Marks & Spencer and HSBC
pulled advertising for British markets from Google
The British government has suspended its advertising on
YouTube after some public sector ads appeared next to videos
carrying homophobic and anti-semitic messages, prompting a flood
of major companies to follow suit.
Britain is the largest market for Alphabet Inc's
Google outside the United States, generating $7.8 billion mainly
from advertising in 2016, or nearly 9 percent of the U.S.
giant's global revenue.
"I would like to apologise to our partners and advertisers
who might have been affected by their ads appearing on
controversial content," Google EMEA President Matt Brittin said
at the annual Advertising Week Europe event in London.
Besides well-known British brands pulling the plug, some of
the world's biggest advertising companies responsible for
placing vast amounts of marketing material for clients, said
they were reviewing how they worked with Google.
The boycott is the latest clash between advertising
companies and the internet giants that have built up dominant
positions in digital advertising by offering not only huge
audiences but also the ability to apply their user data to make
ads more targeted and relevant.
For big advertising groups such as WPP, internet
firms are both a client and a competitor, while traditional
media groups such as newspapers and general online news
publishers are having to compete with them for online dollars.
"Google faces a hostile industry of media owners in Europe
... and we expect they will be all too happy to highlight future
brand safety failings," said Brian Wieser, a senior analyst at
Pivotal Research Group.
"Overall, we think that the problems which have come to
light will have global repercussions as UK marketers potentially
adapt their UK policies to other markets and as marketers around
the world become more aware of the problem," he said.
WPP, the world's largest advertising firm, said on Monday it
was talking to clients and media partners such as Google,
Facebook and Snapchat to find ways to prevent brands from being
"We have always said Google, Facebook and others are media
companies and have the same responsibilities as any other media
company. They cannot masquerade as technology companies,
particularly when they place advertisements," said Martin
Sorrell, the founder and head of the British firm.
Publicis, the world's third largest advertising
firm, said in a statement on Monday that it was clear Google had
fallen short of meeting advertising standards and that the
French company was reviewing its relationship with Google.
Google said on Friday it worked hard to remove ads appearing
on pages or videos with hate speech, gory or offensive content
but with 400 hours of video uploaded to YouTube every minute it
did not always get it right.
Brittin said Google had made a commitment to doing better
and would simplify advertiser controls, add safer defaults and
increase investment to enforce its ad policies faster.
A spokeswoman for Google UK said it would look again at the
way it defines incendiary commentary and hate speech to raise
the bar on videos and sites allowed for advertising.
On Friday, Google executives were called in to face
questions from the advertising industry and Britain over the
Representatives for retailers Marks & Spencer, Sainsbury's
and Argos, British banks HSBC and RBS,
McDonald's, the UK branch of advertising group Havas
and the BBC told Reuters their firms had stopped ads.
A source at Lloyds Banking said the lender had
pulled the plug as well. Others such as Vodafone,
Barclays and Tesco were reviewing policies,
their representatives said.
(Additional reporting by Eric Auchard, Rahul B, Gwenaelle
Barzic, James Davey and Lawrence White; editing by David Clarke)