By Ginny Marvin
No offense to Septicease, but the company would likely admit it is not a brand-name advertiser. That its ad is showing at the top of a New York Times article about the dramatic increase in public support for the Black Lives Matter highlights the deep misalignment between media consumption (rising) and digital ad spend (declining) that often occurs in pivotal societal moments.
In the name of “brand safety,” some advertisers are blocking their ads from appearing on content about the Black Lives Matter movement and protests, Ad Age reported Friday. Some marketers are even blocking keywords such as “black people” and “George Floyd,” according to the report. Vice told Ad Age it has seen CPMs on content related to the protests off by 57% compared to other news content.
“There is nothing negative about the term ‘black people’ but by putting it on a blocklist it is effectively saying that there is,” Paul Wallace of Vice said on Twitter.
While on its face, this raises obvious ethical concerns, it’s also more complicated than that.
Messaging and tone considerations. Consider “Blackout Tuesday.” The chart below from Tinuiti and Pathmatics illustrates its impact on Facebook ad spend. The initiative, held on June 2 to protest police brutality and racism, called for people to stop their regular postings on social media. Instagram and Facebook news feeds were filled with black squares in lieu of traditional updates. Many brands joined in, and those that kept campaigns running as usual were seen as tone-deaf. While this was aimed at social media, many brands have also taken a hard look at their display activity, sensitive about sending the wrong message.
When the coronavirus reached global pandemic level, many marketers were quick to recommend that advertisers block their ads from appearing alongside news about skyrocketing COVID-19 cases and deaths, with some circulating keyword exclusion lists. Many others hit pause on their campaigns to re-evaluate messaging and imagery in a time of social distancing.
Rob Rasko of The 614 Group, which is hosting Brand Safety Summit New York virtually on Tuesday, notes brands have to think about how their existing messaging is going to resonate with readers.
“Early March created a knee jerk reaction for advertisers to block certain ads and terms specifically related to COVID-19 and news. So, while viewership was up, that blocking began,” said Rasko. “The blocking made sense in some ways because advertisers needed to take a minute to get their messages and tactics correct, as not to sound tone-deaf. Initiatives like the ANA’s whitepaper ‘Cross-Industry Collaboration to Redefine Brand Suitability in Trusted News Environments: A Call to Action’ brought this to light. With the Black Lives Matter protests, getting messages right is equally critical. Getting it …read more
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