IPG CEO on YouTube advertiser boycott: 'The best way to fix it is to hold them economically accountable'

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Michael Roth IPG Advertising Week

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IPG CEO and Chairman Michael Roth.

LONDON - Michael Roth, CEO of Interpublic Group (IPG), said the advertising agency holding wasn't ruling out freezing its spend with Google if it didn't fix the issue of ads appearing next to extremist content.

Speaking on a panel discussion at Advertising Week Europe in London on Monday, Roth said: "We did have one or two clients that had [ads appearing in inappropriate slots on Google platforms] and we discussed it with Google. We believe that we and our clients are entitled to have our works for our clients displayed in a manner that's consistent with the values of our clients."

"Google assured us they would fix this very quickly and so we've chosen to hold them accountable rather than pull our allocations," he said. "To the extent it doesn't change we'll hold them accountable by the best way we know how and we'll hold back funds."

He explained IPG has its own monitoring tools to identify where online ads are placed and said the debate in the UK over the past few weeks highlighted the increasing need for the industry to take more responsibility over areas such as transparency and ad viewability.

Roth pointed out the spend freeze, from the UK government and advertisers like the McDonald's, Audi, and The Guardian , was on Google display ads, which appear on YouTube and across Google's ad network not search advertising, where IPG puts most of its spend with Google.

Earlier this week, Havas Group UK chief executive and country manager Paul Frampton announced last week the agency was stopping its UK clients' spend on Google  until the internet company sorts the issue. Global chairman and CEO of the group Yannick Bollore reacted to the announcement with a tweet saying he was unaware the group was halting its spend, worldwide.

Google Europe boss Matt Brittin also appeared at Advertising Week Europe on Monday. Ahead of his discussion on stage with Unilever marketing chief Keith Weed, Brittin told a small press briefing that ads appearing next to extremist content on YouTube was affecting "pennies, not pounds" of advertising spend.

However, Brittin also apologized and said the company will be making an announcement in "the coming days" about how it is improving its systems to prevent this from happening again.

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