Brand safety furore proves press still creates culture

Image result for times brand safety

Unless you’ve been head down working on a pitch for a client that had non-officially given their business to someone else after officially giving it to you, you will have seen the furore caused by the Times regarding Brand Safety.

The Times have run multiple press articles about BIG BRANDS FUNDING TERROR, calling out specific brands, agencies and tech partners for placing their ads next to content about race hate and extremism.

As a result, the ad world has created a snowball on par with the comet that killed the dinosaurs:

  1. Google have apologised (!) and are hiring people to develop tools to deal with brand safety.
  2.  Havas UK pulled all spend from GDN and YouTube – without the big bosses permission.
  3. Brands are pulling their spend – AT&T , as have Sainsbury’s, the British Broadcasting Corp., Toyota & Volkswagen.
  4. Everyone and their mother has something (and nothing) to say on it

Rob Norman, CDO at Group M globally, put it in his own brilliant manner:

Google has been in the crosshairs of the media reports as the principal villain of the piece, the enablers of and profiteers. Facebook is not far behind. Advertisers (and sometimes their agencies) are the accessories to the crime. Their money enables Google and Facebook directly, and the perpetrators of the content indirectly. And yet, in the grand scale of YouTube, Facebook and advertising expenditure, the numbers are tiny tens of thousands in a world of billions.

The only real good is that the power of the platforms will be balanced by increased pressure on them to be socially responsible and accountable. Complex and inadequately deployed content detection, user protection and brand safety tools will get simpler, more effective and better distributed.


There are lots of points of view, lots of approaches, lots of solutions, but what is clear is the power of press to create conversation, to have an impact and to make a difference.

The power of press caused Google to apologise and create jobs.

The influence of press  caused one of the biggest agencies in the UK to pull all spend with one of the biggest companies in the world.

The ability of press to cause a cultural moment that caused clients to pull spend temporarily and re-examine their whole buying strategies.

Online coverage has amplified it and given cheap exposure to bloggers and non (or should it be un?) professional thinkers. I do appreciate the irony here…

The digital marketing world is coming out of the time of creating complexity as IP and is coming into the era of true accountability, and the skeletons in the black box wardrobe are being examined.

Bob Hoffman, serial digital bubble popper, commented on the state of things – the state that allowed big brands to appear next to jihadis –

It’s time for sensible, responsible people in the advertising and marketing industry to get off their asses and do something about this.



Lewis Carroll 

Now, here, you see, it takes all the running you can do, to keep in the same place.

If you want to get somewhere else, you must run at least twice as fast as that.