The nation's top ad agencies are calling on advertisers to support news outlets as publishers struggle to monetize their coronavirus content
- The nation's biggest ad agencies are calling on advertisers to more closely monitor where their ads run as news publishers are struggling to monetize big spikes in coronavirus-related news coverage.
- The pandemic has drawn attention to advertisers' practice of blocking their ads from appearing around news they deem negative.
- In a report due out April 6, the 4As trade organization is recommending that advertisers monitor this practice more closely so they don't inadvertently defund news and lose out on reaching a valuable audience.
- Other industry groups have made similar calls, but some critics say the biggest responsibility lies with the tech companies that enable this practice.
- Click here for more BI Prime stories.
The nation's biggest ad agencies are calling on advertisers to more closely monitor where their ads run as news publishers struggle to monetize big spikes in readers for coronavirus-related news coverage.
The pandemic has drawn attention to advertisers' practice of blocking their ads from appearing around news they deem negative.
The 4As trade organization is making the recommendation in a report due out April 6. It's the product of an unusual collaboration between media companies like Turner and The Washington Post, ad agency holding companies like WPP and Publicis, and adtech firms like Integral Ad Science, DoubleVerify, and Oracle that help advertisers skirt hard news using keyword blacklists.
"Now more than ever, advertisers should be working with agencies and verification partners to identify their brand-suitability risk tolerance," says the report, titled "Cross-Industry Collaboration to Redefine Brand Suitability in Trusted News Environments."
The problem is when the tools used to avoid supporting illegal or extremist content are used with such blunt force that they also keep ads from running on trusted news sites. There's been an uptick in advertisers blocking news about the pandemic, causing ad rates to plunge.
According to one ad exchange that represents a significant number of news publishers, the average display ad rate paid to advertise on their sites in March plummeted to $1.87 from $4.11 a year earlier. One industry expert estimated the practice costs top news publishers millions of dollars a month.
The 4As report was a year in the works but its release was timed in part to reflect the coronavirus crisis and its negative impact on trusted news sites, said Marla Kaplowitz, president and CEO of the 4As.
"We all share a common interest in having brand suitable environments," she said. "There's been a lot of reporting on COVID 19 and what's happening with advertising. We want to remember, the majority of advertising is brand-safe and suitable for advertisers, and that in some cases the wide-ranging blacklists are not updated and that tolerances are not updated with real-time criteria."
There's industry debate about who is responsible for course-correcting - advertisers, their agencies, or the tech companies that enable the keyword blocking.
Other trade groups the IAB and Digital Content Next have called on advertisers to support quality news by whitelisting such sites.
The 4A's says it's unrealistic for advertisers to just whitelist all news
But Kaplowitz said whitelisting all news doesn't work for all advertisers because there are so many brand and category considerations that go into advertising decisions.
"They say, no blacklists. That's not realistic for agencies. I appreciate what David Cohen and Jason Kint put out," she said of the heads of the IAB and DCN, respectively. "But imagine being next to a story about the death of an infant if you're a baby brand. Also, brands are also pivoting now because of the moment. We're all at home. How is your brand expressed in an at-home environment?"
Kaplowitz said brands often are conservative and that it's up to them to understand that if they don't regularly update their blacklists, they'll limit their audience reach and may see ad rates go up.
"It isn't necessarily their priority," she said. "It's up to them to understand the value of these audiences. Agencies are doing it, but they have to get involvement of their clients."
Do you have a personal experience with the coronavirus you'd like to share? Or a tip on how your town or community is handling the pandemic? Please email email@example.com and tell us your story.
And get the latest coronavirus analysis and research from Business Insider Intelligence on how COVID-19 is impacting businesses.
- Gas stoves create more nanoparticle pollution than a busy street with diesel and gas cars, study finds
- Climate change could cause millions of children to be born prematurely, suffer lifelong complications
- Markets record rally makes investors richer by ₹4.29 lakh crore
- From undernutrition to obesity, Lancet study unveils India's double whammy
- GST collections in February rise 12.5% to cross ₹1.68 lakh crore