Like many Super Bowl ads, Hyundai's salute to U.S. troops, which appeared just after the game, got considerable exposure later in the week on YouTube, including where the brand never intended – as pre-roll to a video supporting Hezbollah.
The Iranian-backed group, designated a terrorist organization by the U.S., is among other things believed responsible for the 1983 truck bombing of a Marine barracks in Beirut that killed 241 U.S. service personnel on a peacekeeping mission.
Hyundai was among several major advertisers last week that had their ads appear alongside videos that appeared to support terrorism, the latest cases of a recurring problem that prompted a call from the World Federation of Advertisers for Google and others to be more vigilant, and a sign that efforts by marketers to stay clear of unsavory digital content aren't always working.
Hyundai finds the YouTube placement "highly concerning," said Jim Trainor, director-communications for Hyundai Motor America, in an e-mail statement on Friday. "We've been working with Google to find out how it happened this time and to ensure that it doesn't happen again. We have strict guidelines when working with Google. Our 'blacklist' [never-to-appear-on list] overrides all other criteria to ensure that violent or extremist sites never serve our content."
Several other Super Bowl ads also appeared post-game either in pre-roll or right-rail placements alongside the Hezbollah video or a separate "Indian Nasheed" whose English subtitles encouraged violence against the Pakistani army for its actions against Islamic militants. Those included ads from AB-InBev's Budweiser and Bud Light, T-Mobile and, at least according to screenshots provided by third-party monitoring firm Gipec, Airbnb and Procter & Gamble Co.
The "Indian Nasheed" video was removed from YouTube after an Ad Age inquiry to Google, though the video bearing the Hezbollah logo remains.
"We have clear policies prohibiting terrorist recruitment and content intending to incite violence, and quickly remove videos violating these policies when flagged by our users," a Google spokesman said in an e-mail statement. "We also have stringent advertising guidelines, and work hard to prevent ads appearing against any video once we determine that the content is not appropriate for our advertising partners. When we become aware of ads that are being served against ineligible content we immediately take action to remove them."
A spokeswoman for T-Mobile said the placements of its ads on the videos in question weren't authorized by the company. A P&G spokeswoman said the company hadn't been able to verify yet whether its ads actually ran opposite the "Indian Nasheed" in a placement depicted in a screen capture by Gipec, a Michigan firm that monitors the internet for criminal activity and objectionable content. In other cases, Ad Age saw pre-roll ads from brands in question on the videos.
"We have not yet verified with Google if the ad ran as depicted, and that is an important first step because third-party information is not always accurate," a P&G spokeswoman said in an e-mail. "We are in contact with Google to investigate, and it appears that the video has been removed."
Spokespeople for Airbnb and AB InBev, marketer of Budweiser and Bud Light, didn't respond to email requests for comment on Friday.