French multinational advertising and PR firm Havas pulled out its entire UK digital ad spending from Google and YouTube on Friday, 17 March. The company confirmed the same, but said this withdrawal would be limited to its UK business.
This follows a similar withdrawal from many major UK brands and the UK government departments. They withdrew their advertisements after discovering it was appearing next to content promoting extremism.
Paul Frampton, Havas UK chief executive and country manager, was quoted as saying by the Guardian: "We have a duty of care to our clients in the UK marketplace to position their brands in the right context where we can be assured that that environment is safe, regulated to the degree necessary and additive to their brands' objectives."
"Our position will remain until we are confident in the YouTube platform and Google Display Network's ability to deliver the standards we and our clients expect," he added.
Ads of the Home Office, the Royal Navy, the Royal Air Force, Transport For London, Argos and Sainsbury's among many others were found to be being displayed alongside videos for racists, white supremacists, rape apologists and other such videos that advocate extremism. Following this, many brands and the UK Government said they would withdraw their ads from the Google platforms until the American tech giant would take necessary action to resolve the same.
Havas is one of the world's biggest marketing agency whose annual digital spend in the UK alone stands at about £175m ($217m). A few news reports had said recently that Havas would consider a global freeze on YouTube and Google ads.
However, according to the latest from a Havas spokeswoman, the rest of the group will not withdraw its ads from either of the two platforms. "The decision of our UK team to pause activity with our partner Google is a temporary move made by the local team on behalf of our UK clients and their specific needs. We are working with Google to resolve the issues so that we can return to using this valuable platform in the UK," she was quoted as saying by Reuters.
Meanwhile, Yannick Bollore CEO at Havas tweeted he was not even aware of its British unit's decision.
Google on its part has already publicly apologised for this issue. It said it had worked hard to prevent ads from appearing on pages or videos with "hate speech, gory or offensive content". It added that it would launch a review to give brands who advertise on its platform more control over where their ads should appear.