Google has vehemently denied the allegations of breaching its own rules and providing misleading information to advertisers regarding ad viewership on third-party websites. The company refutes the claims, calling them “extremely inaccurate.”
Google’s involvement in placing video ads on external websites and apps is managed through the Google Video Partner (GVP) network and TrueView, which is also utilized on YouTube. According to The Wall Street Journal, Google assures brands that their ads will be displayed on “high-quality” sites, appear before the main video content, and run with audio. It further guarantees that advertisers will not be charged if users skip the ads. However, a report from a third-party analytics company suggests that Google fails to meet these standards approximately 80 percent of the time.
Adalytics, the analytics company in question, asserts that the ads frequently appear on lower-quality websites featuring misinformation or pirated content. They also claim that the ads are positioned in small video players on the side or bottom of the screen, away from the primary “in-stream” content. The report highlights instances where some ads run without any audio, while others show “little to no video content” between consecutive TrueView ads. Adalytics further claims that certain ads autoplay without viewer engagement.
Furthermore, Adalytics notes that in certain cases, the skip button, typically appearing after five seconds, is concealed, obliging viewers to watch the entire ad. Adalytics asserts that this practice directly violates Google’s quality standards for TrueView ads and may contribute to inflated ad metrics, leading to higher costs for advertisers.
Adalytics conducted a review of ad campaigns for over 1,100 brands between 2020 and the present year. They identify notable customers that potentially purchased “muted, auto-playing, mis-declared TrueView skippable in-stream inventory,” including the US government, the European Parliament, Disney+, HP, Samsung, Sephora, TikTok, Microsoft, General Motors, and even some Google divisions like Google Career Certificates and Google Workspace Domains.
Media buyers who received the report from Adalytics accused Google of engaging in “ad fraud” and claimed that brands were not receiving the services they paid for. Some advertisers have demanded refunds. Adalytics suggests that this misalignment may have cost brands billions of dollars in advertising expenditures. For instance, a major consumer goods brand discovered that 20 percent of its campaign budget exceeding $75,000 was allocated to YouTube channels, while the rest was spent on ads shown on third-party platforms like investing.com and Candy Crush Saga.
Google firmly denies the findings presented in Adalytics’ report. Marvin Renaud, the company’s global video solutions chief, stated in a blog post that Adalytics employed unreliable sampling and proxy methodologies. Renaud contends that an “overwhelming majority of video ad campaigns” are run on YouTube and that brands always have the option to opt out of having their ads displayed on GVP-affiliated websites and apps.
However, Adalytics points out that certain types of TrueView ad campaigns have been included in GVP by default since approximately July 2019. They also refer to a Google support article stating that specific video ad campaigns do not allow customers to opt out of having their ads shown on third-party platforms. Another support article indicates that as of April 2022, Google automatically enrolled certain TrueView campaigns that had opted out of the GVP network into the program.
In response, Ginny Marvin, Google’s ads product liaison, explained that there are multiple campaign types, each with its own opt-out option for GVP. TrueView campaigns, for example, provide an opt-out feature within Google Ads. For performance campaigns like Video Action, which tend to perform better when reaching larger, relevant audiences, advertisers can collaboratewith their account representatives to exclude GVP inventory.
Renaud argued that over 90 percent of GVP ads are visible to people across the web, emphasizing that Google utilizes real-time ad quality signals to determine viewer presence and attention. He also highlighted Google’s strict enforcement of policies prohibiting third-party sites from using deceptive or disruptive techniques to generate advertising revenue, such as placing ads in hidden browser windows. Renaud added that Google took action last year by ceasing to run ads on more than 143,000 websites found to be in violation of its rules.
These claims from Adalytics arise at a time when Alphabet, Google’s parent company, is facing scrutiny over its advertising practices. Earlier this year, the Department of Justice filed a lawsuit against the company in an attempt to break up its ad business. Additionally, the European Union recently stated in a preliminary finding that selling off part of Google’s advertising empire would be the only remedy it sees to address antitrust concerns.
Update 6/28 2:00 PM ET: Additional details were added from Google’s support articles.
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Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs) about advertising practices
What are the allegations against Google regarding its advertising practices?
The allegations against Google suggest that the company may have violated its own guidelines and misled advertisers regarding ad viewership on third-party websites. It is claimed that Google fails to meet the promised standards in terms of ad placement, quality, and user engagement, leading to potentially inflated ad metrics and higher costs for advertisers.
How did Adalytics support these allegations?
Adalytics, a third-party analytics company, conducted a review of ad campaigns for over 1,100 brands. They found that Google’s ads often appear on lower-quality websites, can be positioned in small video players away from the main content, and may run without audio or proper video content. Adalytics also highlighted instances where the skip button was obscured, forcing viewers to watch the entire ad. They claim that these practices violate Google’s quality standards and may have contributed to artificially inflated ad metrics.
How did Google respond to these allegations?
Google has firmly rejected the allegations presented by Adalytics. They argue that the sampling and proxy methodologies used by Adalytics were unreliable. Google asserts that the majority of video ad campaigns run on YouTube, and brands have the option to opt out of having their ads shown on Google Video Partner (GVP) affiliated websites and apps. They also emphasize their enforcement of policies against deceptive advertising practices and their actions in stopping ads on websites violating their rules.
What impact could these allegations have on advertisers?
The allegations of misleading practices and inflated metrics could have significant consequences for advertisers. Advertisers may have paid more than expected for ad placements that did not meet the promised standards. Some advertisers have demanded refunds, and the misalignment between expectations and actual delivery of ad services may have cost brands billions of dollars in advertising expenditures.
What other scrutiny is Google facing regarding its advertising practices?
Google is currently facing scrutiny from various entities regarding its advertising practices. The Department of Justice filed a lawsuit against Google in an attempt to break up its ad business. Additionally, the European Union has made preliminary findings suggesting that selling off part of Google’s advertising empire may be necessary to address antitrust concerns. These investigations indicate the broader challenges Google is facing in relation to its advertising practices.
More about advertising practices
- The Wall Street Journal – Source providing information on the allegations against Google’s advertising practices.
- Adalytics – Official website of Adalytics, the third-party analytics company that conducted the review of ad campaigns.
- Google Blog – Google’s official blog where Marvin Renaud, Google’s global video solutions chief, posted a response to the allegations.
- Department of Justice – Official website of the U.S. Department of Justice, which filed a lawsuit against Google in relation to its ad business.
- European Commission – Official website of the European Commission, which has raised concerns about Google’s advertising practices and antitrust issues.