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An Interview w/ Alejandro Borgia, Director of Ad Safety

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Google, the dominant player in online advertising, is tackling the ads violating its policies more aggressively than ever before.

In an exclusive interview with Search Engine Journal, Alejandro Borgia, Google’s Director of Product Management for Ads Safety, provides insights into the company’s evolving strategies.

We delve into the following topics throughout the interview:

  • How Google constantly evolves its strategies to combat abuse trends.
  • The role of Google’s Sensitive Event Policy in preventing the misuse of tragic events for profit.
  • How Google’s handling of severe policy violations led to suspending 6.7 million advertiser accounts last year.
  • Recently updated policies for a safer ecosystem.
  • The introduction of the Ads Transparency Center.
  • The future of ads safety at Google.

Join us as we unpack these crucial areas, giving you an inside look into Google’s efforts to maintain a safe and reliable advertising platform.

Rising Ad Policy Violations

With over 5.2 billion ads blocked or removed due to policy violations last year, Google’s enforcement has become significantly more stringent.

“Bad actors are constantly shifting their techniques and strategies. Each year we see new and different abuse trends,” explained Borgia.

To counter these trends, Google maintains a vigilant approach, evolving policies and investing in enforcement mechanisms.

“Sometimes there’s a brand new type of abuse that will emerge in the ecosystem, and we don’t have policy coverage for it. So, we create policies,” Borgia explained.

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Responding to changing global circumstances is another critical component of Google’s ad safety strategy.

Noteworthy incidents such as the outbreak of COVID-19 or the war in Ukraine trigger the creation of new policies to adapt to these unforeseen circumstances.

“The battle against policy violations is a relentless pursuit. We cannot become complacent because these bad actors are creative and always trying to find a loophole.”

Sensitive Event Policy and its Challenges

Google’s sensitive event policy is critical in preventing the exploitation of tragic events for profit.

“It’s our responsibility to ensure that our platform is not being used to exploit real-world tragedy. We won’t allow the misuse of our platform, especially when people are suffering.”

The recent war in Ukraine demonstrated some policy effectiveness, with Google blocking over 17 million ads related to the conflict.

“Sensitive event policy is really there to prevent ads that seek to exploit or profit from a tragic event,” Borgia elaborated.

As the war escalated, Google swiftly adapted its policy, augmenting enforcement to block ads seeking to exploit the situation.

Borgia highlighted Google’s multi-faceted response to the crisis:

“We paused all Google ads to properties in Russia. We also paused all ads from advertisers in Russia to all properties globally. And we paused Google monetization of Russian state-funded media.”

Addressing Egregious Policy Violations

Last year, Google reportedly suspended more than 6.7 million advertiser accounts due to egregious policy violations.

Borgia clarified that these suspensions target malicious actors intentionally causing harm.

He said, “When advertisers work willfully to harm users, blocking a single ad is not sufficient. We seek to stop that advertiser from creating more harm in the future.”

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Borgia emphasized the distinction between well-intentioned advertisers who may inadvertently violate a policy and “bad actors” intentionally causing harm.

“For well-intentioned advertisers, we seek to take action against the ad itself and then inform the advertiser,” said Borgia.

“We cannot and will not tolerate advertisers who willingly harm our users. Our goal is not just to stop the harm, but to prevent its recurrence.”

Updated Policies for a Safer Ecosystem

Google updated or added 29 policies for advertisers and publishers last year to stay ahead of evolving threats.

“We are committed to safeguarding our platform’s users, so we frequently reassess and update our policies. These changes reflect our proactive approach to providing a safe online environment.”

Borgia highlighted a few significant changes, including a sensitive event policy response to the Ukraine war, an expanded financial services certification program, and a tailored policy for teens, ensuring they receive age-appropriate ads.

“We’ve had protections for kids on our platform for years. We expanded those protections last year to have specifically tailored policies around teens,” Borgia commented.

Ads Transparency Center: Enhancing Accountability

Google’s commitment to transparency culminated in the launch of the Ads Transparency Center in 2023.

“We believe in the power of transparency, and the Ads Transparency Center is a big step in the right direction. It’s our commitment to building trust and accountability in the advertising ecosystem.”

The Ad Transparency Center is a searchable hub for verified advertisers’ ads. This platform allows users, researchers, and other stakeholders to see the ads run on all Google platforms.

Suppose a user is interested in a skincare product but doesn’t recognize the brand. In that case, they can use the Ads Transparency Center to look up the advertiser and learn more before purchasing or visiting their site.

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Users can access the Ad Transparency Center directly or through the My Ad Center via the three-dot menu next to the ads they see.

“We’re very pleased and very proud, to see that in the marketplace and [to see] people engaging with it and finding it useful,” Borgia remarked.

The Future Of Ad Safety

When asked about the future, Borgia affirmed, “We’re constantly raising the bar, developing new policies where needed, developing new enforcement mechanisms, and building on transparency. It’s just a wonderful opportunity for me to get a chance to talk a little bit about what we do every day.”

Google’s ad ecosystem is an ever-evolving space that demands constant vigilance, innovation, and transparency.

As Borgia and his team strive to keep the ecosystem safe, their work is an ongoing testament to their commitment to making the world safer.

In Summary

Google’s ever-evolving ad policy measures underscore its commitment to keeping advertising safe.

Key takeaways from our conversation with Alejandro Borgia include the need to adapt to new abuse trends, the importance of policies to prevent the exploitation of real-world tragedies, and a firm stance against advertisers with egregious policy violations.

Borgia shared that ad safety’s future lies in raising the bar on existing measures, developing new policies, and enhancing transparency.

Google’s battle against ad policy violations is a ceaseless pursuit in which innovation, vigilance, and user safety are paramount.


Featured image generated by the author using Midjourney. 





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