An advertising boycott of YouTube is increasing, a sign that big-spending companies doubt Google's ability to prevent marketing campaigns from appearing alongside repugnant videos.
PepsiCo, Wal-Mart Stores and Starbucks on Friday confirmed that they have also suspended their advertising on YouTube after the Wall Street Journal found Google's automated programs placed their brands on five videos containing racist content.
AT&T, Verizon, Johnson & Johnson, Volkswagen and several other companies pulled ads earlier this week. The defections are continuing even after Google apologised for tainting brands and outlined steps to ensure ads don't appear alongside unsavoury videos.
It's not an easy problem to fix, even for a company with the brainpower that Google has drawn upon to build a search engine that billions trust to find the information they want in a matter of seconds. Google depends mostly on automated programs to place ads in YouTube videos because the job is too much for humans to handle on their own.
About 400 hours of video is now posted onYouTube each minute. The company has pledged to hire more people to review videos and develop even more sophisticated programs to teach its computers to figure out which clips would be considered to be too despicable for advertising.
Contacted on Friday, Google stood by its earlier promise, signaling the company's confidence that it will be able to placate advertisers. As part of that effort, Google intends to block more objectionable videos from ever being posted onYouTube — an effort that could spur complaints about censorship.
Some outraged advertisers are making it clear that they won't return to YouTube until they are certain Google has the situation under control. "The content with which we are being associated is appalling and completely against our company values," Wal-Mart said in a statement.
Besides suspending their spending on YouTube, Wal-Mart, PepsiCo and several other companies have said they will stop buying ads that Google places on more than two million other third-party websites.
If Google can't lure back advertisers, it could result in a loss of hundreds of millions of dollars in revenue. Most analysts, though, doubt the ad boycott will seriously hurtGoogle's corporate parent, Alphabet Inc.