Surprise & Frustration at World’s Largest Media Owner

Simon Watson, Head of Digital


It’s often said that it’s during the worst times of your life that you find out who your friends really are.

During this global pandemic Republic of Media have been working with The Scottish Government and NHS24 to ensure the public has the information needed to protect their health and help the country beat this virus. In doing so we’ve seen which advertising providers have reacted quickly and stepped up to the mark, and which have failed to deliver.

Working alongside hard-working, committed media owners, we’ve launched TV, print, radio, broadcaster VOD, digital audio and social media advertising in record times with incredible agility – breaking the established rules along the way. If you’re reading this and you’ve helped us in any way – genuinely, thank you for your efforts.

It’s surprising amongst this that the world’s biggest media owner has failed to meet a reasonable standard. Google’s rival for that crown, Facebook, was quick to blacklist certain advertisers and products (facemasks, for example) for risk of profiteering – and the whitelisting process for Government bodies and reputable advertisers was rapid with ads live within hours. Google’s performance was, and is, in stark contrast.

On Google Ads, bidding on Coronavirus related keywords and including terms in ad copy was immediately blacklisted. This was perhaps a sensible approach whilst they developed policy and to stop profiteering, but Government bodies and reputable organisations desperately needed to get crises comms out to the public. It took two days for Google to whitelist accounts for Coronavirus related keywords and ad copy – a lifetime in digital media and dangerously long in a national emergency.

Another one of Google’s products, Display & Video 360, simply can’t keep up with other DSPs. Despite whitelisted accounts for Coronavirus advertising and numerous manual creative request processes – approvals do not happen and two weeks later activity is not live. Thankfully ‘DSP 2’ exists which doesn’t have shackles for the communication of key public information, unlike Google.

A Google spokesperson said: “we realise that COVID-19 is becoming an important part of everyday conversation, including a relevant topic in political discourse and for many advertisers in different sectors, and we’re planning to allow more advertisers to run ads related to COVID-19 as soon as we’re able to do so safely.” And here’s where it gets good: “we are looking at ways to support limited COVID-19-related ads from hospitals, medical providers, government entities and NGOs.” Well Google, you simply aren’t doing this quick enough in a time of crisis when the world needs you to step up and, as a key source of public information, help us through this crisis – now!