The European Parliament (EP) is scrutinizing Google’s advertising practices, dating back to 2020. This audit comes in the wake of a report suggesting that YouTube may have deceived advertisers through a third-party ad-placement program. Google has challenged the findings of this report.
Adalytics, an ad-verification company, claimed that YouTube potentially misled numerous advertisers, including Fortune 500 companies and government bodies such as the European Parliament and US federal agencies. The allegation revolves around YouTube’s TrueView skippable in-stream ad product.
TrueView ads are served on YouTube’s website or app, and on third-party sites via Google Video Partner Network (GVP Network). For these advertisements to be compliant with Google’s policies, they must appear in-stream within a video player that the user is already viewing. Furthermore, the video play must be initiated by the user and should be both skippable and audible.
Adalytics analyzed ads from over 1,100 brands from 2020 to 2023 and found that approximately 80% of TrueView in-stream skippable ads served on GVP Network contravened these policies. The study noted instances where TrueView ads were displayed on low-quality sites with autoplaying videos with sound turned off or placed within out-stream video slots where users often do not view them.
Following the report’s publication, the EP press representative stated that they are evaluating how their promoted content might have been affected. “This evaluation process is still ongoing,” said the representative.
From 2020 to 2022, EP services continue gathering data to make a comprehensive assessment of the situation while auditing official accounts for potential misplacements. As per initial assessments by EP, it appears that their use of GVP Network was residual.
However, Google has taken issue with Adalytics’ analysis. Marvin Renaud – director of global video solutions at Google – published a blog post stating that researchers used faulty methodology which grossly misled stakeholders. Adalytics stands by its findings despite this criticism.
Meanwhile, 24 members from a coalition are demanding Roberta Metsola – president of European Parliament – seek compensation from Google due to alleged misleading tactics concerning ad buys.
Interestingly, Adalytics reported finding TrueView ads on Russian websites known for peddling disinformation. In response to this revelation, a group of MEPs wrote: “We will never tolerate or actively fund dictators or sleazy companies.”
Google has since demonetized Pravdaru and halted monetization for Russian state-funded media due to strict publisher policies prohibiting content promoting violence or hatred against any group of people.
The recent wave of scrutiny following Adalytics’ report has led some advertisers to restrict their exposure on GVP Network while others are seeking refunds for invalid placements from Google.