Israeli Advertisers Not Eager to Act on Boycott of YouTube

Only a handful of overseas companies have barred local ads.

The YouTube website.
Richard Vogel/AP

The boycott of YouTube by multinationals who don’t want their ads being paired with offensive content hasn’t spread to Israel, although some global firms have pulled Israeli advertising from the platform.

YouTube’s parent company, Google, has come under intense scrutiny for ads appearing alongside YouTube videos carrying homophobic or anti-Semitic messages. The company vowed to overhaul its practices, and said last week it began an extensive review of its advertising policies.

British brands like HSBC and Marks & Spencer were the first to pull advertising from the site, early last week. They’ve been joined by a host of U.S. advertisers including Johnson & Johnson and JPMorgan Chase & Company.

But Israeli advertisers, who spend from 100 million to 120 million shekels ($28 million to $33 million) a year on YouTube ads, are still sitting on the fence, industry sources said.

“It’s amazing that international companies are a lot more sensitive to anti-Semitic content and rushed to cancel ads, while Israeli companies of all things keep on advertising,” said one Israeli marketing executive who asked not to be named.

The few exceptions are companies like Osem, a wholly owned unit of Swiss food maker Nestle, which was instructed by its parent company to stop advertising on YouTube and other Google outlets.

“We are in constant contact to ensure a solution for filtering inappropriate content on the network. Until a solution is found, advertising by Osem on Google is suspended,” an Osem spokesman said.

Some foreign firms that advertise in Hebrew for the Israeli market have also told local ad agencies and media buyers to pull YouTube ads.

“I got unambiguous instructions,” the executive said. “I was told not to talk about it but to stop immediately all advertising on YouTube in all categories.”

YouTube’s troubles prompted Artimedia, which aggregates local videos and carries advertising, to boycott YouTube, saying they could find their messages appearing next to content that is racist and inciting violence.

A spokesman for Google Israel said the company was overhauling its policies. “We have begun a thorough review of our advertising policies and we publicly committed to implementing changes that will give brands better control over where their ads appear. We’re also raising the bar on our ad policies to better protect our advertiser brands.”