Do advertisers have a moral duty to continue spending in news organizations? And what kind of effectiveness can they find there?

Over the last year, concern has grown that some brands are opting out of a news environment where the level of political discourse has turned negative.

Some media agency executives told Digiday they had blocked hundreds of news sites. We have also seen publishers like BBC NewsNews Corp, The Economist and now Vice Media protest at the move.

In this revealing video interview with Beet.TV, Susan Schiekofer, GroupM Chief digital investment officer, explains how brands currently regard current affairs – and how the agency responds…

“News is very important to lots of our clients,” Schiekofer says. “We have clients who very much lean in and want to surround the news.

“But then we have clients who are a little bit afraid of the category, who are very cautious, especially around political advertising, not wanting to be near political advertising or the front page news that could have violence.

“We really take the lead from the client. If they lean out, that’s okay. Our job is to present the range to our clients and then they make the decision. But what we try to do is find ways to be in (acceptable) sub-sections of news (sites).”

The issue has gained prominence as brand safety tools, which aim to help advertisers get placed next to more desirable content, primarily work using keywords to describe pages. Buyers can opt out of buying programmatically against any chosen keyword.

But that threatens to throw out the baby with the bath water. Several companies are currently trying to bring more nuance to brand safety tools.

Schiekofer says GroupM “throws out” any sites on the “far, far right” and the “far, far left”, leaving a list that clients themselves are asked to vet, sometimes further removing additional publishers.

“Our job is not to be the censor,” Schiekofer says. “We take their lead. “We do advise our clients to make sure that they’re using a brand safety verification tool.”

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.

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