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Banks pull advertising after unwilling extremism links

Following accusations that YouTube is associated with extremist material, HSBC, as well as RBS and Lloyds, have pulled their online advertising from Google platforms

A recent investigation revealed that adverts from a range of well-known brands could appear next to content from extremist groups on YouTube. An ad appearing alongside a video earns the poster close to £6 per 1,000 clicks, meaning that brands could have unwillingly contributed money to extremists.

Speaking at the Advertising Week Europe conference, Matthew Brittin, Google’s European head, said: “I would like to apologise to our partners and advertisers who might have been affected by their ads appearing on controversial content.”

Banking should be taking this particularly seriously. Post-2008, trust in the financial services sector is still dwindling. Associations, unwilling or otherwise, are hardly likely to aid the situation.

According to research from YouGov, 87% of marketers revealed that there is now more pressure to act ethically and provide a role model for society. However, 70% of respondents were concerned about factors outside of marketing that could affect the firm’s ability to protect the brand.

As a result, 95% of marketers agreed that marketing needed to have a much stronger influence through an organisation.

A further 37% believed that improving engagement across the business was a top priority for 2017, but only 9% of respondents said that ensuring the business behaves ethically would be a priority. This suggests a desire from firms to seem ethical without a large emphasis on actually acting ethical.

Chris Daly, CEO of the Chartered Institute of Marketing, said: “Pulling advertising from YouTube and other parts of Google might appear an extreme reaction by HSBC, but they could just be the tip of the iceberg. This year, it will become increasingly common to see brands taking action to build an ethical company name, and ensure they are engaging in reputable marketing practices.”

According to Interbrand, HSBC had a brand value of $10.45bn in 2016, a fall of 10% from the previous year’s $11.66bn. This in turn had fallen 11% from 2014.

Banks need to be incredibly careful with their brands. With the emergence of multiple alternative financial service providers, from challenger banks to technology giants, there are suddenly a lot more brands to choose from. Many of these, such as Apple and Samsung, have already garnered trust from the consumer.

What the incumbent banks certainly do not need are links that will wipe their entire brand reputation off the map.

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