IAB, AANA trade words over advertisers avoiding news coverage of COVID-19

IAB urgently calls on brands to stop shunning news media websites and get behind coverage of the Coronavirus as AANA acknowledges brands are facing unprecedented ad realities

The Covid-19 coronavirus
The Covid-19 coronavirus

Brand advertisers are reportedly avoiding advertising on news media websites around coronavirus coverage, prompting an urgent call from both publishers and the Interactive Advertising Bureau (IAB) for them to stop the practice and get behind publishers and the media community.

And it’s a call that’s now provoked a response from the CEO of the Australian Association of National Advertisers (AANA), John Broome, defending brand owners from cutting spend and preserving cash while reiterating the advertising community’s appreciation of trusted news sources and a commitment to working through issues.

IAB Australia today put out a call for brands, agencies, ad verification firms and other companies in the digital advertising ecosystem to stop shunning coverage of the COVID-19 crisis. Instead, they’re being asked to put their money and support behind efforts news teams are making to keep readers abreast of information relevant to COVID-19.

IAB Australia CEO, Gail Le Roy, noted news consumption has dramatically changed over the past month as the global pandemic crisis has escalated, with many consumers returning to news sites in order to seek out information and regular updates on what to do and how to act. Nielsen’s Digital Content Ratings for March showed a 29 per cent leap in time spent on digital news sites and apps.

Yet advertisers are not keeping up. Worryingly, while publishers and news organisations are investing heavily to keep the public informed and meet such consumer demand, the world ‘coronavirus’ and ‘COVID’ are fast accelerating up advertiser blocklists, leaving swathes of news inventory redundant and lacking much-needed advertising revenue, she said.

“Credible news and media organisations are seeing huge jumps in online traffic. But many brands are blocking advertising from appearing near content mentioning coronavirus,” Le Roy said. “It’s essential brands support news and journalism because with this content now so ubiquitous, without advertising support it will be simply unworkable and unsustainable for the production of news content.”

In response this morning, AANA’s Broome said advertisers understand and appreciate the value of trusted news sources in society, particularly during the emergency. But he defended the decision by advertisers to re-evaluate and cut ad spend.

“Australian advertisers will continue to make decisions on where their advertising appears based on what the community would deem appropriate and what is commercially sensible,” the statement read.

Broome said the AANA has not seen data that would allow analysis of media spend by category since the COVID-19 emergency hit.

“However, it is evident that both consumer and business-to-business behaviour has altered radically in the past few weeks,” he continued. “Discretionary spend in many categories has evaporated because of the combination of the necessary health and safety measures now in place and because most individuals and organisations are seeking to preserve cash in the short term. Brand owners have responded to this new reality.”

However, Broome noted if programmatic or other practices are leading to undesirable outcomes, advertisers, the Media Federation of Australia and others will need to work together to mitigate against any unintended outcomes.

BBC Global new SVP of commercial development in APAC, Alistair McEwan, said now is the time for brands to step up and not shrink into the shadows.

“Brands that are making lazy decisions to block or avoid news for their current advertising are not only hurting news publishers and journalism, they are missing a cast iron opportunity to really connect with audiences,” he said. “I encourage brands and their agencies to work closely with publishers at this time to understand and deploy sensible and appropriate solutions.”

News Corp managing director of digital solutions, Neil Robinson, said with the crisis dominating coverage, the news giant had been asking brands to back the team, not block them.

“It’s important brands understand there can be no stigma attached to such far-reaching essential news,” he said. “Appropriate, relevant and empathetic advertising on reputable and premium news sites around Coronavirus content can be extremely powerful. IN fact, such messages can be vital communication tools for brands when consumers need more information, not less, to cope through crisis.”

In a statement to CMO, Media Federation Australia CEO, Sophie Madden, said the association and its members were committed to brand safety.

"Reliable and high-quality reporting of the coronavirus is not what we would consider unsavoury content," she said. "Consumers are seeking trustworthy journalism to stay informed on how the pandemic is impacting them. Supporting quality journalism is always important, and now more than ever if we are to overcome the crisis we are facing."

Finding the balance

There’s no doubt brands are reviewing their creative and messaging before relaunching advertising campaigns in a bid to be more sympathetic to the current environment. For its part, the IAB encouraged brands to consider their policies and make sure they don’t inadvertently block premium content sites.

Another key piece of advice is to block specific words that are 100 per cent unsafe, but create a keyword checklist for more common or easily misunderstood terms. It also highlighted using semantic contextual targeting to ensure the editorial content and text on the page is best understood, minimising the risk for advertisers.

The IAB also recommended being creative with targeting attributes and utilising them in conjunction with publisher’s audience data to take advantage of the enormous levels of regularly returning highly engaged audiences on premium content sites.

Follow CMO on Twitter: @CMOAustralia, take part in the CMO conversation on LinkedIn: CMO ANZ, follow our regular updates via CMO Australia's Linkedin company page, or join us on Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/CMOAustralia. 

 

 

 

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