JP/Politikens Hus pushes back against COVID-19 brand safety concerns

By Thomas Lue Lytzen

JP/Politikens Hus

Copenhagen, Denmark

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Never has the demand for local and nation news been bigger. Danes are looking for news and information in great numbers as they also seek consolation and confirmation in times when the corona virus dramatically changes our everyday lives. They turn to classic, old-school journalistic news outlets because they trust them.

Most recently, this is documented in a TrygFonden study on citizens’ confidence and information habits during the corona crisis, in which authorities and news media are recognised as the most important sources of information.

Brands generally do not want their advertisements to be placed by bad news. So what happens when all the news is bad?
Brands generally do not want their advertisements to be placed by bad news. So what happens when all the news is bad?

Advertisers, who keep advertising on national and local news media, benefit from this confidence. In a study conducted by Integral Ad Science, 78% of users say that they have no problem with ads appearing next to corona news, even when they describe the harsh reality as it appears. Therefore, advertisers that actively prevent their campaigns from appearing on corona news are making the wrong decision. 

As JP/Politikens Hus Chief Operating Officer Dorthe Bjerregaard-Knudsen explains: 

“Right now, Denmark is practically shut down. Nevertheless, journalists and employees across national and local publishers work from home to fulfill the most important role of news media — namely to inform the citizens about all sides of the current crisis.

“For Danes, corona is the most important topic right now, and they are turning to us in bigger numbers than ever before to get information that they trust. They know full well that with us they get fact-checked information, whereas on social media anyone can post unchallenged and unedited horror stories and miracle cures.”

We reached out with a press release including this information just before the Easter holiday as a response to news coverage about brand safety technologies that were actively pushing an agenda advocating that COVID-19 content was unsafe. Agencies and advertisers had started picking up on this message. We had also seen blog posts from Danish agencies about how they could help advertisers avoid COVID-19 content, so we decided to say something. 

Global media agency GroupM Nordic joined with us to warn against this practice: 

“We recommend our clients to be much more nuanced when it comes to blocking news topics,” said Paw Saxgren, chief operating officer for GroupM Nordic. “Firstly, news outlets that are monitored by Pressenævnet [The Press Board, which handles complaints by readers and viewers on editorial content] are brand safe, have high credibility and ad quality. Secondly, we have studies that show that users understand very well that news media has to describe reality as it presents itself. In fact, we know that ads on publisher news sites get a high level of attention and impact. 

“Therefore, we are taking a more granular approach to which news topics that can be seen as problematic. Corona is a big part of the news, and we certainly do not recommend opting out of corona news on a general level. Obviously, there are some very tragic and very specific news about death, where many brands should not appear. But in general advertisers should be present and communicate constructively with news-hungry Danes on the platforms that Danes turn to and trust in. "

Blocking advertising on corona news articles has found its way from the English-speaking markets, especially from the United States and the United Kingdom, where news media companies such as The New York Times and The Guardian see massive surges in traffic but fail to sell corona related ad inventory.

This trend has also spread to Denmark, and several so-called brand safety technologies and other intermediaries in the advertising market are actively communicating that they can “protect” advertisers from the “dangerous” corona news. 

“However, there are no studies to substantiate that users associate anything negative with advertisers appearing with the most current news,” Bjerregaard-Knudsen said. “So one might wonder why these technologies act as they do. Could it be because they have vested interests in defining corona news as non-brand safe?”

Banner photo courtesy of photo courtesy of chrisdorney at stock.adobe.com.

About Thomas Lue Lytzen

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