Johnson & Johnson and GM join companies suspending their YouTube ads over extremist videos

Google says it is performing an “extensive review” of its advertisement policies after a British newspaper investigation found ordinary ads appeared alongside user-uploaded YouTube videos that promote hate and extremism. (Sign up for our free video


Healthcare product maker Johnson & Johnson and automaker General Motors Co. are among the latest companies to halt advertising on YouTube after concerns that Google is not doing enough to ensure brands’ ads are not appearing near terrorist content.

New Jersey-based Johnson & Johnson said in a statement last week that it has decided to “pause all YouTube digital advertising globally to ensure our product advertising does not appear on channels that promote offensive content.”

“We take this matter very seriously and will continue to take every measure to ensure our brand advertising is consistent with our brand values,” the company said.


Detroit-based GM said Friday that it was suspending targeted ads on YouTube “until Google can adhere to our brand standards.”

That same day, food and beverage company PepsiCo said it had taken “immediate steps to remove all advertising from non-search platforms until Google can absolutely ensure that this will not happen again.”

“We are deeply concerned and terribly disappointed that some of our brand ads have appeared alongside videos that promote hate and are offensive,” the Purchase, N.Y., company said in a statement.

The uproar comes after a recent investigation by Britain’s The Times showed how ordinary ads appeared alongside user-uploaded YouTube videos that promote hate and extremism.

The British government, along with local advertisers, suspended ad purchases following the report.

Last week, U.S. companies began following suit, with giants such as AT&T Inc., Verizon Communications Inc. and rental car firm Enterprise Holdings Inc. announcing that they will halt or reduce deals with Google, which owns YouTube.


Google said it doesn’t comment on individual customers, but that the search engine giant has begun an “extensive review” of its advertising policies.

“While we recognize that no system will be 100% perfect, we believe these major steps will further safeguard our advertisers’ brands and we are committed to being vigilant and continuing to improve over time,” Google said in a statement.

Group M, the world’s largest media investment group, said it had been communicating frequently with Google about ad placement long before the recent YouTube news.

“They’ve been very, very cooperative with our suggestions on how we can improve brand safety with our clients,” said Susan Schiekofer, chief investment officer for U.S. digital advertising at Group M.

The agency is the largest buyer of online advertising in the world and recognized early on that there are risks associated with user-generated platforms, she said.

“What we can do is make sure when we’re buying [ads] that we’re marking off all the right controls, that we’re auditing exactly where everything ran, and if there are particular channels or particular content that our clients don’t want to be on, we’re not there,” Schiekofer said.


Twitter: @smasunaga


3 p.m.: This article was updated to include comments from Group M.

This article was originally published at 11:20 a.m.