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YouTube Hit With Another Ad Scandal, Even as P&G Returns to the Platform

The timing is certainly awkward: Procter & Gamble, a top-spending marketer, announced that it’s resuming ad spending on YouTube — coming amid a new report the Google-owned video giant served ads for hundreds of advertisers against a range of objectionable content.

A year ago, news reports that YouTube was placing ads against violent and extremist videos led to a broad boycott, which led hundreds of advertisers to halt spending, including P&G, AT&T, Dish Network and PepsiCo. Last fall, YouTube was hit again by a backlash over ads on videos that attracted child predators.

But despite its pledges to address the “brand safety” crisis, YouTube is still delivering unpleasant surprises to Madison Avenue.

On Thursday, CNN reported that ad spots from 300-plus companies and government agencies ran on YouTube channels “promoting white nationalists, Nazis, pedophilia, conspiracy theories and North Korean propaganda.” The ads were for companies including Netflix, Amazon, Netflix, the New York Times Co., Adidas, Hershey and Hilton — which were unaware that their marketing messages were running against such content, per the report. Under Armour told CNN that it was suspend YouTube spending for now.

In response, YouTube reiterated that it continues to work on improving its processes for serving ads. “We have partnered with our advertisers to make significant changes to how we approach monetization on YouTube with stricter policies, better controls and greater transparency,” a rep for YouTube said in a statement.

Despite the latest revelations, P&G on Friday said it will now be advertising on YouTube after a year-long break, as first reported by Bloomberg. The consumer-packaged goods company worked with YouTube and “we now feel the right measures are in place for P&G brands to have the option to advertise on YouTube,” a P&G rep said in a statement.

What’s important to note: P&G is giving the OK for brands to spend only on fewer than 10,000 “white-listed” channels that YouTube has cleared as safe for brand advertising.

P&G spent a total of $7.1 billion on advertising worldwide across TV, print, radio, online and other channels. According to the company, it cut digital advertising spending by $200 million last year, amid the YouTube freeze and as P&G found some online ads weren’t being effectively targeted.

Even though P&G had suspended ad spending on YouTube, it continued to maintain channels for its brands on the video site — as well as a P&G channel, where it ran the popular “Thank You, Mom” campaign timed for the 2018 Winter Olympic Games in Korea.

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