Cisco said it was pulling 'all online ads' from YouTube because the site doesn't meet its brand safety standards

Business Insider US

YouTube CEO Susan Wojcicki

  • Cisco's CMO wrote a blog post declaring that the company wants to avoid a "brand-tarnishing experience" and that it was pulling all of its ads from YouTube.
  • The post was quietly deleted about 24 hours after it was published, following Business Insider's inquiries to YouTube about the matter.
  • Cisco had said in the unusual post that YouTube didn't meet its standards. 

Cisco is dissatisfied with YouTube’s attempts to purge unsavoury clips from the video-sharing site and has “pulled all online advertising,” from the site the networking giant said in a blog post.

“Some content platforms are not properly monitoring and categorizing the content on their sites,” wrote Karen Walker, Cisco’s chief marketing officer, the author of the post published Wednesday.

Walker also mentioned challenges with Facebook, but took aim directly at YouTube in an unusually direct message criticizing the world's most popular video site, which is owned by Google.

Shortly after Business Insider contacted YouTube about the matter on Thursday, the post disappeared from the Cisco website. A new version of the post appeared hours later that made no mention of YouTube and the plan to stop advertising on the site.

"Our intent was to address an industry-wide issue without singling out any partner or customer," a Cisco spokeswoman wrote in a statement late Thursday evening. "We reposted the blog with our position on brand safety as intended." 

A screen shot of the original post can be found below.

During the past two years, multiple media reports have chronicled how ads from family-friendly companies have appeared alongside videos promoting child porn, hate speech, and terrorism on YouTube. Google-owned YouTube, the world’s top video-sharing service, has battled to cleanse the site of offensive, disturbing and illegal material. The results of those efforts appear to be mixed.

Walker wrote in her blog post that Cisco has no plans to advertise at YouTube again “until the platform has met our standards.”

The post critical of YouTube that appeared on Cisco's blog on Wednesday.
“We are incredibly grateful for the trust brands put in us every day,” a Google spokesperson said in a statement to Business Insider. “We have partnered with advertisers to make significant changes to how we approach monetization on YouTube with stricter policies, better controls and greater transparency. We are committed to continuing this dialogue and getting this right.”

The blog post is unusual. Among big companies, taking a partner to task in public is not unprecedented but not very common. This may be a signal that the relationship between Cisco and YouTube has become strained. What is also unclear is whether Cisco has remove ads from YouTube globally or just in the United States. 

Large advertisers potentially have a lot to lose when their brands become associated with offensive material. When the media first reported that ads from Fortune-400 companies were running alongside YouTube videos that featured racist propaganda and  those used by terrorist groups to recruit members, some big names quickly removed their ads.

But the word recently was that YouTube’s recent changes to the site, such as using artificial intelligence to filter videos and hiring 10,000 employees to help monitor the site, had convinced companies to return.

On Wall Street, the fear is that the issue could harm YouTube's growing revenues, just at the time the world's No. 1 video-sharing site appears to have become a major source of revenue for Google.

In Walker’s post, the marketing exec does not specifically identify what led to the decision to pull the videos. But she did write: “Sensitive issues in the media do sometimes spread faster than the media platforms’ algorithms can update, leading to what can be a brand-tarnishing experience.”

Three weeks ago, CNN reported that it had found ads from more than 300 companies and organizations, including government entities, appearing with content promoting Nazis, white nationalists and wild conspiracy theories. Cisco was among the 300.

Policing YouTube isn't an easy task. Every minute more than 400 hours of video from across the globe is uploaded to the service. 

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