Major marketers' ads have likely been showing up on or near YouTube videos promoting terrorism, neo-Nazi groups and other web content for a long time. So why has the brand-safety problem suddenly burst into the open, prompting big advertisers such as General Motors, Walmart, Verizon, AT&T and Johnson & Johnson to stop spending on YouTube or other Google properties? Thank -- or blame -- Eric Feinberg, a longtime marketing-services executive who in recent months has made it his mission to find ad-supported content linked to terror and hate groups, then push links and screen shots proving it happened to journalists in the U.K. and U.S.
The resulting coverage has sparked a full-fledged advertiser revolt.
Mr. Feinberg owns Southfield, Mich.-based Gipec, short for Global Intellectual Property Enforcement Center, which employs "deep web interrogation" to find keywords and coding linked to terrorism and hate speech.
He's also co-owner of a patent issued in December for a "computerized system and method for detecting fraudulent or malicious enterprises." His system works in part by analyzing when videos and websites contain words that appear alongside such phrases as "kill Jews." He's logged thousands of sometimes innocuous or obscure sounding terms he says "co-trend" with such hate speech or exhortations to violence, which in turn helps him finding offensive videos.
His efforts with the media have been classic problem-solution marketing. Mr. Feinberg makes no bones about his interest in licensing his technology to Google and other digital platforms to monitor offensive content and keep ads away from it.
Certainly Google knows plenty about artificial intelligence and machine learning, as its executives have eagerly informed marketers in public and private presentations for years. And last week, as major advertisers one after the other pressed "pause" on YouTube advertising, Google said in a blog post that it's beefing up its tech efforts and hiring more people to prevent placement of ads with unsavory content. A spokesman declined to comment further.