Google and Bing have expanded ad sales suspensions imposed on Russia due to its invasion of Ukraine. Google has temporarily halted ads from serving to Russia-based users, the company announced Thursday. Similarly, Microsoft announced that it will suspend all new sales of its products and services in Russia.
Why we care. The two leading search engines now prohibit ads targeting users located in Russia, cutting off the main channels western search marketers use to reach audiences there. This will affect brands advertising to Russian users, but Yandex (Russia’s second-biggest search engine by market share) remains an option.
These ad suspensions serve to protest Russia’s actions in Ukraine, but they also help search engines avoid brand safety debacles like misinformation campaigns making it through their automated systems and showing to users.
Escalating restrictions on Russian state-funded media. Last week, both search engines stopped running ads from Russian state-funded media outlets. In addition, Microsoft is “further de-ranking these sites’ search results on Bing so that it will only return RT and Sputnik links when a user clearly intends to navigate to those pages,” Brad Smith, president and vice chair of Microsoft, said in an announcement on February 28.
Perhaps this is what Russia wanted. Roskomnadzor, Russia’s communications regulator, has accused YouTube of running “advertising campaigns to misinform the Russian audience,” according to the Wall Street Journal. The Russian agency demanded that Google change its ad moderation policies and discontinue such ads.
The new ad suspensions are likely to primarily affect Russia-based businesses, but they may also put a temporary end to the ads Russia is complaining about.
Social media platforms halted ad sales in Russia, too. Snap Inc. and Twitter have both paused ads in Ukraine and Russia, with the former halting them in Belarus as well. Facebook has stopped serving ads from Russian state media, but (at the time of publication) is still showing ads to Russian users.
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