Google braces for questions as more big-name firms pull adverts

Google executives are bracing for a two-pronged inquisition from the advertising industry and the government over the company’s plans to stop ads being placed next to extremist material.

A slew of big-name companies, advertising firms and government departments have either pulled their adverts from Google and its YouTube video site, or are considering whether to do so, with media giant Sky and a trio of banks adding their names to a growing list over the weekend.

The internet firm’s European head, Matt Brittin, is one of two Google executives due to speak at the annual Advertising Week Europe event, attended by every major company in the advertising world.

Sources said Brittin is aware he is likely to face a flurry of questions about how adverts for major brands have ended up attached to videos by extremists, including hate preachers and former Ku Klux Klan leader David Duke.

The ads help fund payments to the people who post the videos, with every 1,000 clicks worth about £6.

Mark Howe, head of Google’s agencies business in Europe, the Middle East and Africa, will also speak at the event.

Brittin will be among the first people to address delegates, speaking on Monday alongside Unilever’s chief marketing officer, Keith Weed.

Unilever declined to comment on whether it had suspended advertising through Google.

Brittin’s appearance in front of luminaries from the advertising industry will kick off a week in which he and fellow executives will also have to explain themselves to government ministers.

Senior figures from the company were summoned to the Cabinet Office last week over concerns that taxpayer-funded adverts were appearing alongside “inappropriate” YouTube videos.

Google executives apologised but were told to come back to the Cabinet Office this week with a plan and a timetable to remedy the problem.

Major advertisers have pulled business from the internet search engine in the past week, with Sky, HSBC, Lloyds and Royal Bank of Scotland becoming the latest to suspend their ads.

Other major brands to pull their ads include McDonald’s, L’Oréal, Audi and the BBC, while government spending has also been suspended. Tesco is understood to have “paused” spending on YouTube.


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