Google has emphatically denied allegations that it has breached its own guidelines and deceived advertisers regarding ad viewership on third-party websites.
Through its Google Video Partner (GVP) network and TrueView, an ad product employed on YouTube, Google manages video ad placements on external websites and apps. As per The Wall Street Journal, Google assures brands that their ads will appear on "high-quality" websites, prior to the main content of a video, with the audio on. Furthermore, it assures advertisers won't be charged if users skip the ads. However, a report by third-party analytics firm Adalytics contradicts these claims, suggesting that Google falls short of these standards about 80% of the time.
Adalytics states that the ads often pop up on lower-quality websites, such as those spreading misinformation or pirated content. Moreover, they can be located in small video players away from the main content. According to the report, some ads run without any sound, while others play consecutively with little to no video content in between. Some ads autoplay without viewer interaction, while in some cases, the skip button is concealed, compelling viewers to watch the entire ad. Adalytics contends that this could inflate ad metrics artificially, causing advertisers to pay more.
Adalytics scrutinized ad campaigns for over 1,100 brands between 2020 and the current year. It alleges that customers that may have purchased "muted, auto-playing, mis-declared TrueView skippable in-stream inventory" encompass the US government, European Parliament, Disney+, HP, Samsung, Sephora, TikTok, Microsoft, General Motors, and some Google divisions.
However, Google has vehemently refuted the report's findings. Marvin Renaud, Google's global video solutions chief, argued in a blog post that Adalytics used "unreliable sampling and proxy methodologies." He maintained that a significant majority of video ad campaigns run on YouTube and brands can opt out anytime from running their ads on GVP-associated apps and sites.
Meanwhile, Adalytics asserts that since July 2019, certain types of TrueView ad campaigns have been incorporated into GVP by default. It also cites a Google support article stating that some video ad campaigns don't allow the customer to opt out from having ads run on third-party sites and apps.
This dispute arises as Alphabet, Google's parent company, faces intensified scrutiny over its advertising practices. Earlier this year, the Department of Justice filed a lawsuit against the company, seeking to split its ad business. Moreover, this month, the European Union expressed in a preliminary finding that the only solution for Google to address its antitrust concerns would be to divest a portion of its advertising empire.