Google News showing inappropriate ads on embedded YouTube videos

I have been on the road for most of the last two weeks, so I have been getting current events news on both and Google News, particularly about the Air France plane crash.  A couple of days ago I noticed Google News was now embedding videos from (what I believe are) “trusted video news sources”, such as the Associated Press.  If you see a tiny YouTube icon, you click the news link, and the video pops up underneath and begins playing.  Sunday morning I noticed that one of the news videos about the Air France plane crash was showing ads for a travel site, which popped up overlaying the bottom of the video, after the video ran for about 15-3o seconds.

Inappropriate?  Yes, it is a plane crash and people are sensitive to the issue.  As an advertiser?  Well, I can’t speak for all advertisers, but I am pretty sure most would be extremely ticked off to discover their advertisement for a travel site were showing up on a video about a major air disaster.

Here are screenshots from Google News showing the ads on the disaster videos, the first advertising charter flights, the second advertising a Brazil photo gallery, targeted since the flight took off from Brazil.  Click each for the full size version.



Now, it has been a week since the Air France crash, why hasn’t Google added that phrase to a stop word filter on YouTube when showing through Google News, similar to the AdSense stop word filter (which words pretty well).  And it isn’t exclusive just to the Air France disaster either.  Other world current events with human tragedy have also been showing inappropriate ads as well.



In my mind, news videos that have anything to do with disasters, loss of life, terrorism, etc, should never show ads… PERIOD.  It doesn’t take much to know that inappropriate ads will appear on these videos.  And since many do seem targeted, such as the Brazil photo gallery ad on the Air France crash video and solar panels on the collapsed roof explosion, why isn’t it being stopped?  And for that matter, why don’t these video uploaders – particularly the major news organizations – have the ability to click a button or check off a checkbox stating that the video contains content that might be disturbing or upsetting to others, and that advertising should not be displayed.

Perhaps when they launched this feature, no one thought about the fact that both viewers and advertisers might be offended by ads overlaying on inappropriate videos.  It is far better for Google to lose a bit of income with an over-excessive stop word filter (one that would trigger for any news stories featuring words such as bomb, crash, kills, deaths, explosion, terrorism, etc).  But in my opinion, there is no excuse for this kind of situation to be happening period, especially when shown on Google News, and particularly when they want to be considered a trusted source of news information.

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8 comments to Google News showing inappropriate ads on embedded YouTube videos

  • Being a guy who has been accused of not being sensitive enough to others I can totally understand your viewpoint. Even I would agree selling stuff on top of natural disasters may not be the most sensitive thing to do.

    Very valid point. :)


  • I agree with the sentiment of your post, but the logistics and manual labor of “censoring” every “sensitive” contextual ad that goes out with the daily news would be enormous.

    This would greatly add to the cost of running YouTube, when many experts think that it is already an unsustainable model for profit.

    Or am I missing something in the way of a software “automatic” solution?

  • Vic

    I understand your view, and I agree with it. However, Google has not yet come up for the technical solution for this. Emotionally it is not right, but to correct it technically is a thing that has not yet in reality. We just hope they can come up with an automated solution to process carefully their advertising schemes not to show ads which are not appropriate.

  • Jim

    I think you’re being a little too sensitive. How many times have you watched the local news about a car crash, and the story was followed by a car ad?

    The right to not be offended does not exist. The crash does not affect the vast majority of people, and they are living their lives. The few people who are affected probably aren’t noticing the ads.

    I follow a lot of plane crash news, and I have never even noticed the ads that surround them.

  • Scott

    I remember back when there was a housefire where kids died and a Google ad for a CD burner with “Burn Baby Burn” as the title appeared and Google reacted pretty quick to nuke those ads. I don’t see many ads appearing on any content related to disasters anymore. So since they seem to have a good filter for not showing ads on inappropriate content, why can’t they just apply the same filter to YouTube and/or Google News? Seems to be a no brainer unless Google is making a ton of revenue of these simply because of the amount of video views they push through because it’s on the news site too. It’s bad form Google, clean it up. What if the victims families see it?

  • Scott

    Jim, I also think its a bit different for ads on a page versus ads showing right over top videos about plane crashes and terrorism acts. You HAVE to notice video overlay ads, while you can much easily ignore ones that are just somewhere else on the page.

  • AdPro

    TV News about natural disasters are always interrupted by commercials. Sometimes, they’d even insert a “brought to you by” between the disaster coverage and the main sponsor’s message.

    I see no reason why Internet ads should not be shown next to natural disasters. In fact, advertising a service that is relevant to those affected by the disaster could be of a great help. If I see an ad about earthquake in, say, L’Aquila, Italy, and if I have relatives living nearby, I’d welcome a calling card ad that will help me connect with my relatives.

    Of course, some advertisers might not want to be associated with natural disasters. For example, showing an AirFrance ad next to the plain crush video won’t help AirFrance, but that’s a separate issue. Travel insurance companies, on the other hand, could be a good match. We often receive requests from airlines to make sure that their ads do not appear next to any articles about an airplane crush.

  • I agree about the commercials with the “Sponsored by”. Even sites & Channels like FoxNews and CNN have different commercials following sensitive news items.

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