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Study Accuses Google of Violating Promised Advertising Standards and Misleading Businesses

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Google allegedly misled numerous companies by violating its promised quality standards while placing video ads on third-party websites and apps, thus potentially costing these firms billions of dollars, according to a recent report.

Google’s TrueView delivers advertisements on YouTube as well as millions of third-party apps and websites. Google charges a premium from customers promising that their ads will be run on high-quality websites, along with audio. In addition, advertisers using TrueView only pay for “actual views of their ads, rather than impressions,” Google claims. However, a report published by advertising research firm Adalytics this week found that “significant quantities” of TrueView ads were run on thousands of apps and websites that did not meet Google’s claimed standards. This has been observed to be happening for the past three years, thus potentially costing ad buyers billions in digital ad dollars.

The report states that many TrueView ads were served on independent websites with no audio. “Often, there was little to no organic video media content between ads, the video units simply played ads only.”

Adalytics estimates that 42–75 percent of TrueView ads in some ad campaigns were allocated to the tech firm’s Google Video Partner (GVP) third-party sites and apps “which did not meet Google’s standards.” Google claims that GVP’s sites and apps are “high-quality publisher websites and mobile apps” where advertisers can display video ads.

According to the findings, Google had served brand ads on websites that had tens of thousands of copyright violation claims, suggesting these were potential piracy sites where copyrighted content could be downloaded illegally. Thousands of TrueView ads were found delivered to bots running from Google cloud data center servers.

Some ads were served on apps that are not allowed on Google Play Store, with a few of these apps developed by vendors from countries sanctioned by the U.S. Treasury Department, such as Iran.

Affected Brands

Entities that many have been affected by Google’s actions include the U.S. federal government, The Wall Street Journal, the European Parliament, HP, Johnson & Johnson, American Express, JPMorgan Chase Bank, General Motors, Mercedes-Benz, Microsoft, HBO Max, McDonald’s, Western Union, Mazda, McCain Foods, and Pfizer, among others.

Adalytics listed 131 major brands that may have purchased “muted, auto-playing, mis-declared TrueView skippable in-stream inventory.” In addition, 10 media agencies are also listed as having transacted “muted, auto-playing, out-stream TrueView ads.”

Ruben Schreurs, the chief product officer of Ebiquity, called the Adalytics findings as “highly incriminating.”

“Based on the findings and allegations represented within, I see this as a structural misrepresentation of advertising products at best, and downright fraudulent misleading practices at worst,” he said.

“If true, this will have major repercussions in the industry and lead to a significant negative impact on Google’s perceived quality and reliability.”

In a June 27 blog post, Marvin Renaud, Google’s director of global video solutions, said that a “recent report by a third party used unreliable and proxy methodologies and made extremely inaccurate claims” about the GVP network. The post did not mention Adalytics by name.

“The claims in the third-party report simply aren’t right. Put simply, over 90 percent of ads on GVP are visible to people across the web—and advertisers are only paying for ads when they are viewed,” he said.

The Epoch Times has reached out to Google for comment.

Google’s Anti-Competitive Ad Practices

Google has earlier been accused of misleading advertisers. Back in 2020, for example, Texas attorney general Ken Paxton filed a multi-state lawsuit against Google, accusing the company of “lying to advertisers, publishers, and consumers” about their conduct and motives.

The lawsuit claimed that Google had “monopolized or attempted to monopolize” services and products used by advertisers and publishers in online display advertising. Such practices raised the advertisers’ cost to publish ads, it argued.

One of the allegations concerned an anti-competitive agreement Google had with Facebook. Back in 2017, Facebook announced that it would try out a new way of selling online ads called “header binding,” which could have posed a threat to Google’s ad business.

In order to counter this, Google is said to have given Facebook “information, speed, and other advantages in the [redacted] auctions that Google runs for publishers’ mobile app advertising inventory each month in the United States,” according to the lawsuit. As a result, Facebook “curtailed its involvement” in the project, it said.

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