Jerry Daykin: Marketers - stop blocking the best parts of the internet or they won’t exist anymore

The Drum 24 Mar 2020 07:13
Jerry Daykin: Marketers - stop blocking the best parts of the internet or they won’t exist anymore.

It’s hard to turn on the TV these days and not see something about covid-19. As a marketing man, it’s almost oddly reassuring when the break kicks in and the ads give us a reminder of the normal world we knew just a few weeks ago. I could say the same for the newspaper, heavy going as a lot of the coverage is there’s something oddly reassuring about the presence of the adverts among it.

The show must go on after all. It’s going to be a very tough time for businesses but hopefully, most of them will be able to see light on the other side, as will the newspapers and media titles helping share their messages. As an ad industry, I hope we’ll pull together to support one another and the other sectors far more badly impacted by the virus over the coming months.

For those who don’t know, this isn’t a promo for the Weather Channel, but the ‘filler’ image the Double Verify verification technology uses when an advert that was about to be served decides at the last minute it doesn’t want to be there (see tweet above). One of the main reasons for that is the detection of perceived brand safety violations, though it can happen for other reasons such as suspected ad fraud or where incorrect targeting has occurred. In most instances, the advertiser will be able to avoid paying for that impression and, in principle, has swerved a potentially dangerous position for themselves.

Brands are right of course to have brand safety settings and software in place. I’m a director of the Conscious Advertising Network and hugely passionate about us clamping down on the darkest parts of the internet and ensuring we’re not funding those. Without brand, safety approaches the absolute worst of the internet can get funded, including hate speech, terrorism and misinformation. You absolutely need settings so you don’t accidentally sponsor fake news spreading lies about the current pandemic and how to react to it. It’s fantastic that brands have woken up to this and are starting to act. We’re not here to blame the tech platforms either, though perhaps they could do more to advocate on this topic and to reshape their defaults. Ultimately, they create tools that allow advertisers to control their exposure but it’s up to the advertiser and their agency to decide how to use them and how to implement them.

Consumers understand that adverts and content are separate, they have realised this for 100 years. Except in the most unfortunate misplacements (an airline advert casually alongside the story of a crash for instance), there really is very little actual brand safety issue on high-quality sites. For me that means brands need (at least) two lanes of safety settings. If you’re bidding on the vast open web then, of course, you need a long and stringent list of words and contexts you want to avoid, it’s a scary and weird place out there with all sorts of bad actors and adjacencies to avoid. Yet if you’re working with high-quality content, with reputable publishers and networks which curate proper journalism or diverse voices then different standards need to be applied. Here it’s less about writing a list of generic naughty words (sex, attack, covid-19) and more about thinking of category-specific considerations what might jar in the consumer’s mind. If you’re advertising chocolate obesity is probably one to avoid. Alcohol companies can steer clear of drink driving stories, Disney videos or pregnancy tips. On the other hand, the word ‘attack’ sounds scary but gets featured in huge amounts of sports coverage, Frozen might be a Disney kids film but it’s also relevant to a range of adult cocktails.

Even forgetting the societal and cultural impacts of that, can you really build your brand alongside the content on a celebrity plastic surgery slide show? It’s time to look again at brand safety, and as with all data and targeting to make sure we are using it to be relevant to more people not visible to fewer. For help and advice on how to approach the challenges of brand safety and other issues in the digital ecosystem check out the Conscious Advertising Network. I’m also proud to be part of the WFA’s Global Alliance for Responsible Media which is working with agencies, ad tech and publishers to build out new standards, educate stakeholders and try and change the internet for the better.

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Marc GuldimannConscious Advertising Networkthe Weather ChannelWall Street JournalLinkedIn
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