Following the Rose McGowan account suspension I mentioned in an item yesterday, a number of prominent women on Twitter have organized a boycott of the platform which is taking place today (Friday). I’m linking below to an item from USA Today which covered the boycott as it being organized, but the challenge today is knowing how effective the boycott has been, because by definition it’s about silence rather than speaking out. Other women, meanwhile, have chosen to speak out about the issues today instead, which makes for a more immediately visible form of protest (Update: this New York Times piece summarizes the different views being expressed on this question). One would hope that these protests, whatever their form, would prompt Twitter to look more seriously at the serious issues being debated, but its lack of past progress on this issue makes me skeptical that that will happen.
via USA Today
Some YouTube Advertisers Still Staying Away (Jun 21, 2017)
Some UK Advertisers Still Staying Off YouTube (May 12, 2017)
As a reminder, the boycott of YouTube and Google which began a couple of months ago kicked off in the UK, where some high-profile press coverage of major brands’ ads showing up next to undesirable content caused some brands to pull their advertising from YouTube and in some cases Google’s other platforms. Although the hubbub over the boycott both there and here seems to have died down considerably, especially after Alphabet itself played down the impact in its recent earnings call, there are still advertisers which are staying off Google’s platforms in the UK. This article lists several ongoing holdouts including Channel 4, Marks & Spencer, Toyota, Tesco, and Pepsi, while others including McDonalds and RBS have returned. The quotes from marketers in the article makes clear that this is still about more than just dodgy content and extends to other frustrations advertisers have with online ad platforms, and that they’re using the boycott as a way to apply pressure to achieve those other aims.
via Marketing Week
I commented on a piece a little while ago about how Chase had a member of staff manually go through the sites where its ads were appearing and pare that number back in order to ensure that its ads were appearing on high quality sites against reputable content. That effort paid off for Chase, which saw essentially the same end results from its advertising on 5,000 as it had on 400,000, but it’s a heck of a lot of work to go through. So a service that offers to help brands work through similar decisions without having to do all the work is bound to be appealing, and that’s what News Corp is offering through its Storyful product. News Corp itself isn’t a major destination for online advertising, but the Murdoch empire in total certainly is, thanks to 21st Century Fox and its significant TV ad revenue (21CF alone had around 75% as much ad revenue in 2016 as Facebook did in the US). But this Storyful product is an expansion of News Corp’s ad offerings into a new area which isn’t directly tied to its online ad platform (or those of 21CF). So although the article sets this up as part of a broader war between Murdoch and Google, this is pretty peripheral stuff. But it’s clearly aimed at taking advantage of some of Google’s recent troubles in this area.
Google Broadens Hate Speech Policies for AdSense (Apr 26, 2017)
Google says its YouTube ad problem is “very very very small” but it’s getting better at fixing it anyway – Recode (Apr 3, 2017)
There are one or two interesting data points in here, with the most interesting probably being that videos big advertisers “had flagged received less than 1/1000th of a percent of the advertisers’ total impressions” – in other words, the problematic videos were around one in 100,000 or less of the videos where ads appeared (it’s worth noting that this number only relates to the videos flagged by brands – there may have been quite a few more they didn’t find). The other interesting thing here is the suggestion Google exec Schindler makes several times that there’s some unnamed person behind the recent attention this issue is getting: there was a report recently that someone who developed detection technology for videos was pushing the story as a way to get attention for that technology, and I wonder if Schindler is hinting at that without being explicit and thereby drawing more attention to the issue. The last thing worth noting is that Google is now allowing outside firms like DoubleVerify and comScore to start auditing ad placement, which is something that third parties have been wanting. The issue is definitely fading from the headlines as the stream of advertisers announcing boycotts dries up, but it certainly hasn’t been dealt with definitively, and as I’ve argued, as an issue it goes well beyond just YouTube and affects programmatic buying more broadly as well.
The tech industry’s response to the Trump administration’s executive orders on immigration has predictably become a competitive dynamic, with Uber customers boycotting the company over a perceived weaker response to the situation than major competitor Lyft. This BuzzFeed piece does a nice job drilling down a bit and separating the rhetorical and practical responses of both companies to the immigration moves, which is more nuanced than the boycott implies. But this raises two other big points. Firstly, to what extent will a failure to stand up for certain causes start to be used as a weapon against companies? We’re already seeing both a backlash against Uber from those who oppose the immigration ban and a backlash against Starbucks from those who dislike its commitment to hire more refugees. No wonder tech companies have been reluctant to take a stand – after such a divisive election, there are large chunks of every company’s customers and potential customers on each side of the issue, and these issues are complex. Secondly, how interchangeable are Uber and Lyft really, to the extent that a temporary boycott might shift meaningful usage from one to the other in a permanent way? I’ve argued in the past that the nastiness that’s characterized competition between the two stems from their fundamental lack of differentiation, which makes them that much more vulnerable to perceived differences and makes them fight that much dirtier to get and keep customers.