Commentary

Should Advertisers Hire News Officers To Vet Landscape Where Ads Air?

In the wake of questions about a report pushed on Fox News Channel “Hannity,” one advertiser, USAA, the home/auto insurance company, said it was opting out of all “opinion-based” news shows.

And then it reversed that opinion -- temporarily. Fair enough. TV advertisers are allowed to be suspect on news and/or news opinion content.

All this concerns a discredited news story about a Democratic National Committee staffer who was murdered after a botched robbery and his possible links to the Clinton email hack during the presidential election. Sean Hannity had been heavily promoting this story.

Even though Fox retracted a related online story sometime afterwards, for many TV advertisers, this was too little, too late. Around seven or so advertisers pulled their advertising on the show.

USAA was one of them -- as well as also making a blanket decision at the time it was also going to exclude other cable news networks’ opinion-news programming.

TV advertisers have a long history of picking and choosing TV prime-time shows with content that doesn’t match their requirements. For those shows -- scripted and reality TV series -- it’s about context. TV marketers pretty much get what will be delivered here.

But when it comes to TV news content? No way. And then there are fuzzier areas. “Opinion-based” TV news content might be also called “unscripted,” but not reality TV “unscripted.”

All that said, USAA’s media advertising decisions aren’t firm: While the advertiser is returning to “Hannity”  -- and other cable news networks show -- it continues to review its policy about opinion-based TV news shows.

Advertisers don’t have the resources to check out all journalism content. But should they? Some would say looking at credible reports from news organizations -- TV, print, or otherwise, that have a stable, perhaps not perfect, history in doing journalism -- would be a good indication.

Maybe TV advertisers need to hire chief news officer to monitor all this -- executives who would judge the tough stuff, such as reports filled with content and news which can have the qualifier: ‘according to sources close to...’

This isn’t new. In the 1970s, when it came to the Watergate scandal that forced President Nixon to resign, many news stories started out that way. The initial story may have a familiar feel to it: a break-in at Democratic National Committee offices.

2 comments about "Should Advertisers Hire News Officers To Vet Landscape Where Ads Air?".
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  1. Ed Papazian from Media Dynamics Inc, May 31, 2017 at 9:45 a.m.

    Wayne, in the good old days, the agencies assumed the responsibility for keeping their clients off "controversial or "offensive" TV shows and, in many cases obtained the right to review scripts of potentially suspect series.If something deemed negative was found, the advertiser's spots were usually moved to another episode of the show, though, in one case ( the hit ABC series, Peyton Place") I recall the entire series being vacated due to its "sexual innuendos". I would assume that some of this still applies to national TV shows but it seems a tad far fetched to expect advertisers to police the entire Internet to "protect" their reputations, especially when the buying is mostly automated. The answer may be to buy only direct with publishers and avoid digital " networks" that can't offer the desired degree of policing themselves.

  2. PJ Lehrer from NYU, May 31, 2017 at 2:20 p.m.

    I wouldn't be surprised if being on some of these shows/sites is a waste of money too.  Note what happened when JP Morgan chose to be a bit more selective...
    http://pjlehrer.blogspot.com/2017/04/garbage-in-garbage-out.html

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