Fake news; real profits

Posted by Mike Zaneis • Oct 3, 2019 1:52:02 PM

The digital advertising industry is funding disinformation - "fake news" - online, and putting brands' reputations at risk.

That's the findings of a study, released last week, by the Global Disinformation Index, a UK-based non-profit organisation. Entitled "The Quarter Billion Dollar Question: How is Disinformation Gaming Ad Tech?", the study looked at 1,700 sites flagged by fact-checkers. It determined that these disinformation sites are earning up to $235 million per year.

This is important work for the digital advertising industry as we know that association with this type of activity harms consumers’ perception of the brand.

I had the pleasure of meeting with GDI's leadership over lunch in New York last week as they participated in the United Nations General Assembly and Advertising Week. Out of the fog of my sizzling fajita tray came a moment of clarity. That $235 million figure is not far from the $110 million dollars of ad revenue that the Trustworthy Accountability Group found to be supporting digital piracy sites in 2016; and the research methodologies were almost eerily similar.

To their credit, GDI's conclusions echo what we at BSI and TAG have found to be effective in combating other facets of the brand safety challenge.

Over the last two years, TAG and CreativeFuture (an advocacy group for creatives in film, television production, and a variety of other creative industries) have been working together to combat the problem of ad-supported piracy. Our "follow the money" approach to get advertising off stolen content resulted in cutting off revenue to these sites by up to 90%. This was documented in our white paper, "Winning the Fight Against Ad-Supported Piracy: Successes, Challenges and Best Practices".

The common solutions to these problems - transparency, proper tools and reporting, an educated brand safety community, and most importantly a strong partnership with the key advertising players -are what will return trust to digital advertising, and keep brands out of crisis. GDI's insights and focus are a welcome addition to our industry's knowledge base. We hope to help them bridge their work to the industry so that we can collectively be a force for good.


Topics: Brand Reputation, Ad Adjacency, Research, GDI, Disinformation