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Google Offers More Transparency and Control After Ad Placement Controversy




After a scathing report last year revealed that Google search ads were appearing on pornographic and sanctioned websites, the tech giant is giving advertisers more visibility and control over ad placements. The changes come following an Adalytics study which found that ads from major brands were showing up on sites like Pornhub and Russian propaganda outlets.


The report was an embarrassment for Google and threatened advertiser trust in the search advertising ecosystem. Now Google is trying to rebuild that trust.


"We take where ads appear seriously and have strict policies that define where ads should and should not serve," said Jerry Dischler, VP of Ads Product Management at Google. "While we have an extremely high bar when it comes to ad placement, we believe there’s always opportunity for improvement."


The key change gives advertisers impression-level reporting to see exactly where their ads appeared across Google's vast search partner network. This unprecedented peek behind the curtain provides more transparency into the $175 billion search advertising machine.


This has major implications for advertisers and brands who rely on Google search ads. For the first time, they can audit ad placements to ensure their ads do not show up in unwanted or brand-unsafe content. Rather than relying on Google's word, brands can verify appropriate ad placement for themselves.


Google is also expanding its sensitive categories exclusion tool to block ads from appearing in broader content categories like tragedy, sensitive social issues, and sexually suggestive content.


This gives advertisers more direct control over what types of content their ads can appear around. Brands can implement tighter guardrails to prevent any chance of adjacency to inappropriate or controversial topics.


While advertisers generally trust Google to place their search ads appropriately, the additional controls should help ease any lingering doubts after last year's Adalytics revelations. Brand safety is crucial, and advertisers require greater say in protecting their brands from potentially damaging ad placements.


Dischler said Google will continue refining its systems and tools to provide brands more control over where ads show up. The search giant sees improving transparency and control as an ongoing process.


"We want to provide complete confidence to our partners with regard to ad placements," said Dischler. "These latest steps move us closer to that goal."

The expanded transparency and controls address advertisers' growing concerns over brand safety and appropriate ad placements. While Google search advertising remains an efficient and powerful platform, brands require more visibility into and authority over where their ads ultimately show up. These latest updates give advertisers the auditability and safeguards to protect their brands in Google search.


Going forward, scrutiny over tech platforms will likely continue intensifying. By preemptively addressing brand safety concerns with added transparency and advertiser control, Google aims to rebuild trusting partnerships with advertisers. As brand integrity takes on greater importance, expect tech giants to shift more control into the hands of their advertising partners.


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