Is bad news bad news for brands? A sometimes-toxic political climate has prompted some advertisers to shun news publishers. Some ad buyers buyers have even blacklisted news sites.
Now publishers are fighting back. Vice has accused brand safety platforms of censorship and others like BBC News, News Corp, The Economist and CNN are protesting that bad news can be good news for marketers.
One executive who has sat on both sides – ad agency and publisher – sees mutual benefit.
“The news has never been more valuable in every respect than it is today,” says GroupM senior advisor Rob Norman in this video interview with Beet.TV. “News audiences are up. News consumption digitally is up. We’ve had things as similar but as varied as the ‘Trump bump’ and the Brexit-related news, which has put politics and therefore the news front and center of everybody’s agenda.
“It seems remarkable to me that people can consider that not running advertising in environments that engage the public enormously is of little value. It concerns me that there is an unintended consequence of some of the ways that advertisers and by extension agencies think about the news.”
Advertisers’ alarm at what they may be appearing next to comes after the earlier outcry over brand safety control, with the PewDiePie controversy spooking some big brand backers.
But such concerns have also spilled over in to mainstream publishing, with some advertisers looking for ever more granular control over the context in which they appear. For many, placing next to negativity is a no-no.
But Norman, the former GroupM chief digital officer who also now sits on the board of BBC Global News, says there has always been a “tension” over individual placements, but not a general desire to shun news as a whole.
“When people have (brand) safety on their mind, the easiest way to react to it is to take a belt and braces approach and think of every eventuality,” he says. “The idea that a whole category of content, and eventually almost all of what I would referred to as hard news could be determined as bad news … is patently absurd.
“News organisations can only produce great news if they have great funding. Advertising is a principle source of that funding. And so, the net, net is the advertisers end up contributing to an under informed public. I don’t see how that can be good for anyone.
The trend also comes as more publishers are looking to make money from consumer subscriptions, buoyed by the success of subscription entertainment platforms and by the swings of the advertising market.
But Norman says publisher-produced brand content could allow advertisers both to have control and gain effectiveness.
This video is part of a Beet.TV series exploring the dynamic news landscape and opportunities for marketers. The series is sponsored by CNN. For more from the series, please visit this page.