Advertisers are abandoning news, but should they?

Posted by Jeremy Spitzberg • Aug 15, 2019 2:39:22 PM

Today, The Wall Street Journal ran an article detailing how brands are abandoning "hard news" publishers in an effort to keep their ads from appearing next to objectionable, or controversial, content. However, our own survey shows that their fears may be overblown.

During the second quarter of this year, 177 advertisers that worked with ad measurement firm DoubleVerify Inc. blocked their ads from appearing on news or political content online, up 33% from the year-earlier period and more than double the 2017 total, the company said.
Integral Ad Science Inc., a firm that ensures ads run in content deemed safe for advertisers, said that of the 2,637 advertisers running campaigns with it in June, 1,085 brands blocked the word “shooting,” 314 blocked “ISIS” and 207 blocked “Russia.” Almost 560 advertisers blocked “Trump,” while 83 blocked “Obama.”

The list of blocked terms is so long, that it may force a change in publishers' output.

The use of lengthy keyword lists “is going to force publishers to do lifestyle content and focus on that at the expense of investigative journalism or serious journalism,” said Nick Hewat, commercial director for the Guardian, a U.K. publisher. “That is a long-term consequence of this sort of buying behavior.”

Certainly brands are right to protect themselves. Brand reputation is a precious and fragile thing.

“The first time your brand is damaged, it’s not easily fixed,” said Bob Rupczynski, senior vice president of marketing technology at McDonald’s, during a recent ad conference in Cannes, France.

However, are advertisers over-reacting?

The Brand Safety Institute and Trustworthy Accountability Group just released a survey showing that, "more than 80 percent of consumers said they would reduce or stop buying a product they regularly purchase if it advertised in a range of hypothetical situations involving extreme or dangerous content." However, "[l]ess than half of respondents said advertisers should prevent their ads from running near gambling-related content (43 percent) or controversial political views (41 percent)."

Each brand will have to make their own decisions about what is right for them. How much risk are they willing to accept, and what are the proper settings for their brand's profile and features. These are the decisions that brand safety officers will be tasked with making, and why BSI is committed to their education and certification. Some will find that their brand's image can withstand some controversy, and/or benefit from advertising with trusted publishers. Others will properly stay away. The worry is that fear will drive blanket bans, in place of considered strategic decision making.



Topics: Brand Safety, Brand Reputation, Ad Adjacency, Block lists