One major media buyer is willing to put his job on the line to persuade advertisers to be more responsible about whether they put their advertising dollars.
Scott Hagedorn, CEO of Omnicom’s Hearts & Science agency, said in an interview that advertisers should think hard about what they are supporting and the societal effects of what some platforms are serving up to consumers.
Hagedorn criticized YouTube just moments after YouTube CEO Susan Wojcicki delivered her keynote address at the Cannes Lions Festival, where she underscored the company’s commitment to openness and transparency in dealing with the ad community.
The ad executive, who is responsible for placing as much as $6 billion in ad buys a year, said he watched 30,000 videos as part of a client audit and was disturbed by some of the content he came across.
“As a client, you would not know where your ads ran," he said. "They would aggregate together videos into channels, and it was done using an algorithm. When one video was vetted to start a channel, the rest of the videos were never vetted. So there was a complete lack of transparency."
Hagedorn said the company had improved but remained a risky proposition.
“I’d say on extremist content they were failing 20 to 30 percent of the time to filter out, or didn’t figure out the [advertisers' buying] criteria, and now its gotten down to 7 to 9 percent," he said.
But Hagedorn added: “The system is not built for audits.”
The agency has partnered with Tristan Harris, the co-founder of the Center for Humane Technology and a former design ethicist at Google, to try to evangelize for better monitoring of the big tech platforms and to use the power of advertising as a weapon to demand improvements.
“This is about the future of society," Harris said. "We need much more aggressive controls.”
Harris said the topic should be on the front pages every day until there’s a way to stop the ill effects of tech platforms exponential growth.
Hagedorn and Harris were part of an official Cannes Lions sessions called: “Addicted to likes,” outlining the need for a more responsible technology.
Hagedorn said his agency only uses Google search now and is still testing with YouTube.
“If these apps were built to be addictive and most of the money in advertising has shifted from traditional TV and traditional media into more of an ad base and mobile world, then how in the world is this effective?” Hagedorn said.