Fossil fuel firms among biggest spenders on Google ads

Fossil fuel companies are among the biggest spenders on Google ads that look like search results, revealed a joint study by The Guardian and InfluenceMap, a think-tank that tracks the lobbying efforts of polluting industries.

As part of the study, 78 climate-related terms were searched on Google and it was found that one in five ads seen on the platform was put up by companies with significant interests in fossil fuels. Such ads are very appealing to advertisers as more than half (58 percent) of users, according to a 2020 survey, reported they could not tell the difference between a paid ad and an unpaid one.

The top-20 advertisers found on the platform during the study included ExxonMobil, Shell, and Aramco, among others. Besides consulting firms like McKinsey, and Goldman Sachs that have been slammed for working with fossil fuel companies were also among the top 20 biggest advertisers on the platform.

There were 153 (86 percent) ads from oil major Shell alone, a company that aims to become a net-zero company by 2050 and align itself with a 1.5C warming target but also bats for the continued role for oil, gas and coal until the end of the century.

“Google is letting groups with a vested interest in the continued use of fossil fuels pay to influence the resources people receive when they are trying to educate themselves,” InfluenceMap senior data analyst Jake Carbone told The Guardian.

The study comes at a time when several companies are associating themselves with terms like eco-friendly and sustainable.

Commenting on the findings, Google’s spokesperson told The Guardian, “We recently launched a new policy that will explicitly prohibit ads promoting climate change denial. This policy applies to all advertisers, including energy companies and financial institutions, and we will block or remove any ads that contain violating content… When search ads do appear, they have the word “Ad” clearly labelled in bold black text in the current design. We rely on extensive user testing, both on mobile and desktop, to ensure ad labels meet our high standards for being prominent and distinguishable from unpaid results.”

Meanwhile, Aramco and Goldman Sachs declined to comment on the issue.

According to an array of studies, the entire world needs to reach net-zero emissions by 2050 to avoid catastrophic climate change.

Source: CNBCTV18

Tags: ExxonMobil, Fossil Fuel, Google ads, McKinsey, Shell
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