New research has revealed that Google violated its own standards by placing video ads on external websites, raising concerns about the transparency of the company’s online advertising business. Google operates the YouTube platform where ads are displayed, but it also facilitates the placement of video ads on other websites through the Google Video Partners program. Google charges a premium for this service, promising that ads will appear on high-quality sites, before the main video content, with sound, and only charging for non-skipped ads.
According to Adalytics, a company that helps brands analyze their online ad placements, Google violated its standards in approximately 80% of cases. The research indicated that Google placed ads in small, muted videos that automatically played on the side of the main content, on sites that did not meet Google’s monetization standards, among other violations.
Adalytics gathered data by analyzing campaigns from over 1,100 brands and billions of ad impressions between 2020 and 2023. The findings were shared. In response, Google stated that the report contains inaccurate claims and does not reflect its efforts to ensure advertiser safety. The company emphasized its strict policies for the program that serves video ads on third-party sites and pledged to take appropriate action upon receiving the full report.
Ad buyers who reviewed the research expressed their dissatisfaction and called for refunds. They criticized YouTube for breaching trust and demanded that Google rectify the situation and reimburse clients for fraudulent ad placements that did not meet Google’s own policies.
Adalytics conducted the research by collaborating with ad agencies to analyze their clients’ ad placement reports. The company also examined data from web archives to identify instances where ads ran on sites that did not meet Google Video Partners’ requirements.
Prominent brands such as Johnson & Johnson, American Express, Samsung, Sephora, Macy’s, Disney+, The Wall Street Journal, as well as government agencies like Medicare, the U.S. Army, the Social Security Administration, and the New York City municipal government, had video ad placements on Google that did not align with the promised standards, according to Adalytics.
The revelations cast doubt on how Google vets sites within its network, emphasizing the lack of transparency in the digital advertising market. The opaqueness of the market makes it challenging for brands to track their expenditures and ensure they receive the value they paid for.
The research findings prompted Senator Mike Lee to criticize Google for its fraudulent conduct and conflicts of interest, stating that advertisers and consumers will continue to suffer. Some ad buyers expressed their intention to seek compensation for ads that were displayed in the wrong places and formats, considering it a breach of honesty.