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10 Events Surrounding Google’s Disastrous Adpocalypse

by Kyle D
fact checked by Jamie Frater

Imagine walking into work tomorrow and being told, due to no fault of your own, you would be forced to take an 80 percent pay cut that could last an undetermined amount of time. While that might sound like a crazy hypothetical situation, it was indeed a reality for thousands of people working online when Google’s so-called Adpocalypse began. Here are ten events that took place during and after Google’s perfect storm of a PR nightmare.

10Pewdiepie vs. WSJ: The Calm before the Storm

Pewdiepie Vs WSJ – The Bigger Problem With The Media

During a since deleted video on his channel, Pewdiepie visited a website called Fivver where you pay people to perform different jobs or tasks for you. He asked its users to do things ranging from zany to downright horribly inappropriate. To the YouTuber’s surprise, he actually got someone to unfurl a banner with the words DEATH TO ALL JEWS printed on it, as the people holding it laughed and yelled, “Subscribe to Keemstar!” The fallout from this came quickly.

One of the first to jump on the attack was the Wall Street Journal (WSJ), who documented multiple examples of Pewdiepie making anti-Semitic jokes and sent them to the companies that worked with him, asking for a response as to why they would employ someone making those sorts of jokes. Pewdiepie was immediately dropped from Maker Studio, and his YouTube Red series was canceled just before it released.[1] Pewdiepie made an apology video saying he did take it too far, but that the WSJ was smearing his name and taking multiple things out of context to hurt him.

9WSJ Hypocrisy: YouTubers Strike Back

After news came out that Pewdiepie had more or less been fired by Disney and YouTube for his edgy jokes about Jewish people, fans and friends alike started digging into the Wall Street Journal’s writers to find out more about them. Most everyone involved in the Pewdiepie story, however, had locked down their accounts and blocked anyone from looking at their post history, and they stayed locked down, all except for journalist Ben Fritz.

As people dug through Fritz’s post history, they found tweets where Ben says it is okay to make fun of black people because those jokes are funny, he is surprised that Jews are so adept at frying, and that he had a hard on for Nazis. After these posts surfaced, people began asking WSJ if Pewdiepie’s Jewish jokes were enough to get him fired, why wasn’t the journalist of the article fired for his own racial comments?[2]

8The Adpocalypse Begins

Shortly after this, the Wall Street Journal dropped a bombshell by releasing an article that showed video proof of advertisements running on an outright racist video with the N word in the title, something that technically should not have been possible considering Google’s own advertising guidelines. When advertisers were questioned by the WSJ about their ads appearing on these racist videos, they pulled out of YouTube en masse.

As advertisers ran away, Google’s profits went way down. By some estimates, Google’s earnings had dropped nearly a billion dollars in the span of a month.[3] It was easily a worst case scenario for the tech giant that could take months to even begin to get under control, yet it was only the beginning of troubles for them as the feeding frenzy truly started.

7The Stab Proof Vest Video

Most of the time, nobody would give the Daily Mail or The Sun a second thought when it came to clickbait articles, but they struck while the iron was hot from the WSJ’s articles and a recent terrorist attack that claimed multiple lives, somehow coming out with an article saying Google awarded people for teaching others how to kill police officers. While the video’s title of “How To Pierce A Stab Proof Vest” was obviously a bad choice, it was a judging a book by its cover situation.

They claimed the YouTuber’s video showed people how to stab through protective armor that might have been worn by murdered PC Keith Palmer, who was stabbed in the terrorist attack that had recently occurred.[4] The man behind the video, Joerg Sprave, claimed it was actually a review of the stab proof vest itself, showing that even if you buy one you should not feel protected, as he easily stabbed right through it with a bit of force.

The article read like something out of Reefer Madness claiming Google was making money hand over fist by teaching terrorists how to kill people when it was really just a guy showing why you should not put your faith in the armor you can buy online. Armor that very likely was not even the same type of body armor worn by the police officer, either. With all the outrage and news articles calling for his head, the man nearly lost his channel as his videos were deleted and he was hit with community guideline strikes, strikes that could cost him all his revenue and his ability to make videos at all.

6Ad Revenue Plummets

With a near constant stream of hit pieces on Google‘s YouTube platform and dozens of advertisers pulling out all at once, something had to give, and the thing that gave out was ad revenue for YouTube’s hundreds of thousands of channels. From big to small, everyone suffered. Before the Adpocalypse, a video that earned one million views could earn a poster $1,000-$2,000, or even more depending on the video’s length.[5]

After the Adpocalypse, even some of YouTube‘s biggest earners reported making 80 percent less than they usually did on a day to day basis. You can imagine the havoc this caused for smaller content creators who may have just been scraping by with what they earned before, now only making 20 percent of what they previously made. Smaller more experimental channels died overnight as it became apparent the new earning amounts were going to stick around a while.

5Thank You Coke Campaign

As advertisers continued to drop left and right, one large advertiser stood true throughout it all. Only, they didn’t actually. In an embarrassing turn of events, multiple large YouTuber’s with millions of fans each got together and released videos thanking the Coca Cola company for staying with Google despite all of the controversy that was going on. Right as their videos were uploaded, however, it was announced that Coca Cola had pulled their advertising, too.[6]

Upon news that even Coca Cola had abandoned them, they changed their tune and promised to give free advertising to the first advertiser to come back to the YouTube platform. Whether or not that actually happened is unknown, but the timing of Coca Cola’s exit could not have been worse considering all the videos and hashtags that had just been made praising them for not doing what they already did.

4The Advertising Blacklist

BREAKING: Advertiser Exposes YouTube Channel “Blacklist”

While most content creators were floundering with less than minimum wage earnings, people started to notice an odd trend forming. If you so much as mentioned something that could be deemed controversial, you were going to take a hit in your revenue. Even something as simple as mentioning the existence of guns could get you in trouble as it could get picked up by YouTube’s bots.[7]

On the other hand, if you made content that appeared to be for children it seemed you were not being hurt by the Adpocalypse at all, even if the content of the videos themselves were pushing the boundaries of sex and violence masked in a cutesy kiddy look. A very obvious divide had formed in what content was okay to make on the platform, and it only got worse when accusations of an advertising blacklist started floating around.

First brought up by the David Pakman Show, they claimed that a smaller advertiser had tried to put their advertisements directly on the David Pakman Show channel, only for none of them to show up and for the channel to receive no revenue from the advertisements whatsoever. Whether or not this was true is uncertain, but something was clearly brewing behind the scenes as more and more controversial YouTubers found their revenue getting lower and lower.

3Someone Claims That the Wall Street Journal Faked Their News Article

At the height of everything, Ethan Klein of H3H3 released a video claiming he had evidence that the Wall Street Journal may have faked their reports of YouTube displaying ads on a racist video. After getting in contact directly with the user who posted the original video, he showed that he did not make any money off the video whatsoever and had not made any in the months it had been posted, despite WSJ showing pictures of ads running on it.

Reddit users quickly pointed out the fact that the video could have had ads running on it without the user earning any revenue because it featured copyrighted music and had a third party claim on the video. Once Ethan saw he made a mistake, he pulled down the video and apologized. The Wall Street Journal responded claiming to stand behind their reporting.[8]

2Spider-Man and Elsa Videos Take Over

As mentioned in #4 in this list, one of the weird consequences of the new advertising rules knocking down all the big controversial channels was the fact that extremely violent or sexual imagery started getting wrapped up in packages designed to look kid friendly, and it was gaining massive amounts of popularity on the platform. Nothing was more popular than videos featuring adult men and women dressing up as Spider-Man, Elsa, and a who’s who list of other copyrighted characters doing all manner of horrible things to each other.

Whether it was simulated sexual acts, murder, or some crazy fetish, everything was on the table, and nothing was being done to stop it. These videos were getting millions of views and advertisements placed on them as they appeared on the surface as something kid friendly, when in reality they were worse than most of the things affected by the Adpocalypse. Only recently has Google announced that they are going to try and put an end to these sorts of videos, but at this point, the YouTube platform has been saturated with them.[9]

1Class Action Lawsuits

With all things involving large sums of money, it has come down to a possible class action lawsuit . . . against Google? Yes, some content creators on the YouTube platform have taken up suit against the tech giant as the changes enacted by Google after the Adpocalypse have more or less destroyed their livelihood. Going by the name Zombie Go Boom, the YouTubers would demo different weapons and tools by destroying zombie stand-ins filled with blood and guts, and they were making considerable coin doing it.

In the lawsuit, they claimed to be making upwards of $500 per day on their videos. After the Adpocalypse, that amount dropped down to just $30 because their videos involved a lot of simulated blood and violence, something that was no longer okay to be monetized depending on factors that are not entirely understood or known. The YouTubers hope the lawsuit will force Google to reveal how their algorithm decides what videos are okay for monetization and which ones are not.[10] It is certainly going to be an uphill battle for the group considering they are going up against Google.

This is where I post shirt designs that didn’t make it in the big leagues. Take a look if you like. They aren’t exactly my best work.

I don’t have anything real on my YouTube channel yet, but I will if I ever stop being lazy!


fact checked by Jamie Frater