Backlash over misplaced ads forces Google to give brands more control

Amrita Nair Ghaswalla Mumbai | Updated on January 15, 2018 Published on March 24, 2017

GOOGLE   -  Reuters

Will expand control options to let advertisers choose the right content, says Rajan Anandan, VP, Google India

The backlash over misplaced advertisements on Google and YouTube seems to be spreading to India as well, as the internet search giant tries to put in place more checks and balances.

Rajan Anandan, Vice-President and Managing Director, South-East Asia and India, Google, told BusinessLine that the company is set to give brands more control over where their ads appear, and that the company itself has a rigorous brand-safety policy in place.

“Brand safety will click in when you are shown ads against content that may be objectionable. Today, advertisers have a lot of control over (objectionable) political or religious content. What we are doing is increasing the number of controls, so that as a brand, you can have even more restraints at every stage and have more control over where you can show your ads,” he said.

The technology company was forced to undertake a thorough review of its advertising policies and brand controls, after major US advertisers such as AT&T, Verizon and Johnson & Johnson pulled out their ads from Google and its video streaming service YouTube.

In the UK, advertisers such as Marks & Spencer and HSBC have already pulled back their advertising from YouTube. The UK is Google’s second-largest market after the US.

“In India, it is not an issue,” Anandan insists, “but we are being very proactive by significantly increasing controls.

“So when a user sees something he does not like, he can flag it immediately. Currently, we have a certain response time, which is 24 hours (98 per cent of flagged content is reviewed within 24 hours). We are reducing that to a few hours.”

Anandan said though there were “several checks and balances in place earlier, 400 hours of content is being uploaded every minute. We have a system that classifies content automatically. Sometimes, the classification does not work, and as a result, new (objectionable) content can be shown alongside ads.

“We are now trying to work through that too.”

Stepping up control

Even as the internet giant has pledged to keep offensive and extremist content away from ads, the crisis highlights the many complexities involved in trying to moderate content on a large scale.

It was also an eye-opener for Google’s India operations.

As Anandan said: “What happened in the US made us realise we need to do more.”

He said the company will “dramatically increase” the number of controls from the current 50-plus options.

The company received “feedback from advertisers asking for more control over where the ads are shown. Even one negative impression is detrimental to the brand, and we want to avoid that”

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Published on March 24, 2017
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