New alert for “brand safety” at Google

Published on Nov 29, 2023 at 6:35 p.m.

A new thorn in the side that Google would have done without in the middle of an antitrust trial . A new report from Adalytics shows that Google’s immense advertising firepower can play many tricks on brands. Advertising messages from large companies or even public institutions like the Pentagon or the FBI have thus found themselves on problematic sites.

To be sure, Adalytics cautiously presents its study as “a highly preliminary observational analysis.” In particular, it is very difficult to know whether or not problematic sites received advertising revenue streams. But, with a very long list of supporting examples, the research firm shows situations where “brand safety” (the ability to guarantee advertisers an acceptable environment) would not be there for advertisers. .

“Extremely exaggerated claims”

Google firmly denies this. “Adalytics has a history of publishing inaccurate reports that misrepresent our products and contain wildly exaggerated claims,” Dan Taylor, vice president of advertising operations, said in a post on X (formerly Twitter). We will of course review the report, but our analysis of the sites and the limited information that was shared with us did not identify any advertising revenue shared with any of the sanctioned entities.”

The subject is very sensitive for Google, for which advertising revenue represents nearly 80% of its total turnover (nearly 283 billion dollars). The Mountain View giant has built an entire advertising ecosystem around its search engine, allowing it to display advertising campaigns on other sites (the “Global Search Partners”, or GSP). In Google’s GSP network, a tool allows developers to create ad hoc search engines that can become channels for advertising campaigns ping through the Google system.

Problematic sites

The Adalytics report observes in particular that advertising campaigns from Fortune 500 brands or the American federal government have appeared for years on sites on “black lists” drawn up by the armed arm of the American Treasury because in countries subject to economic sanctions . Some advertising content, for example, landed on Russian or Iranian sites. In many circumstances, advertising campaigns also appear on ographic sites or sites hosting pirated content.

According to Ruben Schreurs, in charge of strategy at Ebiquity, a media analysis firm which was able to consult the Adalytics study before its publication, this report highlights “very questionable decisions” by Google creating a “significant risk » for advertisers. Although quotes from marketing executives at large companies often remain anonymous, Adalytics also reports concerns among many advertisers who are asking Google for more transparency.

This is not the first time that Adalytics, which helps brands track and audit their online campaigns, has cast doubt on Google’s practices. In June, this firm published another report on Google Video Partners . According to Adalytics, Google’s specifications are rarely respected regarding this service which allows it, on behalf of advertisers, to broadcast video adver on third-party sites. Which made Google react quickly. The Mountain View giant said that this report contained “many inaccurate statements” and did not reflect the way in which the group “ensures the protection of advertisers”.

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