AT&T is the second-biggest advertiser in the US, with a $2.4bn spend in 2017.
It pulled its ads from Google’s video platform in March 2016 alongside a number of other Brands including Mars, L’Oreal, Volkswagen and HSBC when The Times ran a front-page story on how they were inadvertently funding terrorism and other illegal organisations by appearing next to their YouTube videos.
At the time, AT&T said it was “deeply concerned” its ads had appeared alongside content promoting terrorism and hate and said that until Google could provide proper assurances it wouldn’t happen again it had pulled all ad spend from Google’s non-search platforms.
Google acted quickly to put in a number of process to address advertiser concerns, including increased human review of videos and improved machine learning and artificial intelligence (AI).
Many were convinced and resumed spending in the weeks and months following the initial reports. AT&T is one of the biggest brands to have held back spend for a so long.
It said it had worked closely with Google and was confident “that there is a near-zero possibility” its ads could end up appearing next to inappropriate or unapproved content on YouTube.
In a LinkedIn post, Fiona Carter, AT&T’s chief brand officer, said she was “glad that we packed up our ads and walked away in the first place.”
“As powerful as digital platforms are in today’s advertising ecosystem,” she wrote, “they can’t be permitted to disempower the brands that use them to reach their customers.”