Google made 'literally thousands and thousands of calls' over YouTube's ad problems

Sundar PichaiJustin Sullivan/Getty ImagesGoogle CEO Sundar Pichai.

Google had to do some serious damage control with agencies and advertisers after its YouTube hate speech debacle.

According to CEO Sundar Pichai, senior sales executives made “literally thousands” of calls to explain why advertisers’ content was appearing next to hate speech videos on YouTube.

He told analysts on Google’s first quarter earnings call: “I think [chief business officer] Philipp Schindler’s team has probably made literally thousands and thousands of calls, in-person conversations, and I think that deep relationship is what allowed us to respond thoughtfully.

“And I think the feedback from our partners were very positive and constructive, and I think we are evolving overall to a better place.”

Pichai’s comments came the same day that Martin Sorrell, CEO of the world’s biggest ad company WPP, said during an earnings call that he still had “some concerns” over ads appearing next to hateful content.

Hundreds of brands in the US and UK boycotted YouTube after an investigation by The Times in February found ads from the UK government, Mercedes-Benz, and other major brands reportedly appearing next to extremist YouTube videos. According to The Times, the videos had been produced by white supremacist groups and Islamic extremists.

UK brands and agencies rapidly pulled their spend from YouTube and US brands began to boycott the platform too. In March, Schindler outlined safeguards for advertisers in a blog post, though he didn’t promise they would work 100% of the time.

Pichai said it was unlikely Google would see any long-term impact from the problem and that the company’s engineers were working “thoughtfully” with advertisers and agencies.

“Look, these types of issues are not new for us,” he said. “Over the past many, many years, as we’ve built services … constantly things evolve. We adapt to it, be it from spam in email or how we do search ranking, and all the efforts we put into it. These are the classes of problems our engineers are really, really good at working.”

There doesn’t seem to have been any short-term financial impact from the boycott. Google’s parent company Alphabet saw revenues rise 22% year on year to $US24.75 billion (£19 billion) in its first quarter. CFO Ruth Porat said YouTube’s revenues were growing “at a significant rate.”

Get the latest Google stock price here.

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