PepsiCo, Starbucks, Others Pull YouTube Ads Over Racist Videos

Boycott came after it was found that Google’s automated programs placed the brands on videos with racist content.

An advertising boycott of YouTube is broadening, a sign that big-spending companies doubt Google's ability to prevent marketing campaigns from appearing alongside repugnant videos.

PepsiCo, Wal-Mart Stores and Starbucks said that they have suspended their advertising on YouTube after the Wall Street Journal found Google's automated programs placed their brands on five videos with racist content. AT&T, Verizon, Johnson & Johnson, Volkswagen and several other companies pulled ads earlier this week.

“The content with which we are being associated is appalling and completely against our company values,” Wal-Mart said in a statement.

Besides suspending their spending on YouTube, Wal-Mart, PepsiCo and several other companies have said they will stop buying ads that Google places on more than two million other third-party websites.

The defections are continuing even after Google apologized for tainting brands and outlined steps to ensure ads don't appear alongside unsavory videos.

Google depends mostly on automated programs to place ads in YouTube videos because the job is too much for humans to handle on their own. About 400 hours of video is now posted on YouTube each minute.

The company has pledged to hire more people to review videos and develop even more sophisticated programs to teach its computers to figure out which clips would be considered to be too despicable for advertising.

On Friday, Google said that it intended to block more objectionable videos from ever being posted on YouTube — an effort that could spur complaints about censorship.

If Google can't lure back advertisers, it could result in a loss of hundreds of millions of dollars in revenue. Most analysts, though, doubt the ad boycott will seriously hurt Google's corporate parent, Alphabet Inc.