Adalytics, a firm specializing in ad analysis, has accused Google of frequently breaking its own standards when placing video advertisements on third-party websites. According to a groundbreaking report covered by Wall Street Journal, the revelation raises serious concerns about the transparency and ethics of the tech giant’s digital advertising practices.

Google’s YouTube is renowned for running ads on its platform, but it also mediates the placement of video ads across various websites via Google Video Partners. The company promises that ads placed by it will feature on top-tier sites, un-muted, prior to the main video content, and that brands will only be billed for unskipped ads. According to Adalytics, Google breaches these standards about 80% of the time.

Adalytics assembled this damning evidence by examining campaigns from over 1,100 brands, which collectively received billions of ad impressions from 2020 to 2023. Brands such as American Express, Bayer, Disney+, Ford, HP, Johnson & Johnson, Samsung, Sephora, and even The Wall Street Journal were victims of this alleged malpractice.

The whole thing is reminiscent of when Facebook overstated video-view metrics in 2015-2016. Facebook would settle for $40M over charging for inflated data.

Responding to the findings, Google defended its policies and brand safety efforts, stating that the research had inaccuracies. However, some ad buyers who have reviewed the research demand reimbursements, with Joshua Lowcock, Global Chief Media Officer at UM Worldwide, calling it an “unacceptable breach of trust.”

Adalytics employed a comprehensive research method, collaborating with ad agencies to analyze their clients’ ad placements. It also scrutinized data collected by web archiving companies, discovering instances when ads appeared on sites not meeting Google Video Partners’ standards.

The findings have sparked skepticism about Google’s site vetting process and highlighted the opacity of the digital ad market. It’s a realm where brands often struggle to ensure they’re getting what they paid for, with an estimated 23% of the annual $88 billion spent on automated digital ad buying on the open web reportedly squandered, according to the Association of National Advertisers.

Amidst this maelstrom, some brands are calling for compensation for ads that appeared in undesirable places and formats, echoing a growing sense of discontent in the digital ad-buying community. This dispute underscores the need for increased transparency and accountability in the digital advertising market, a sector currently dominated by tech giants like Google.

Nolan went to Northeastern for English, but picked up the controller at night. At Sudoken, he crafts stories of the gaming industry as if he was the script writer for AAA games.