Commentary

Here's A Problem: We Can Help (If You Hire Us)

Two organizations that claim to alleviate ad fraud (one asking $1k for a “membership” the other, $10k for a bottom rung “membership”) mounted a study (well, SurveyMonkey anyway) that “reveals”: “Nearly three out of four respondents (73%) said advertisers shouldn't run ads near pornographic content and hate speech, while almost as many (70%) said advertisers should steer clear of violent content. Slightly more than half of respondents (53%) said advertisers should avoid running ads near pirated movies or TV shows. More than four in 10 (41%) said advertisers should avoid having ads appear near ‘controversial political views.’”

In the end, consumers surveyed said they’d be less inclined to buy products from marketers who violated this astoundingly obvious common sense.

As Ed Papazian from Media Dynamics Inc commented on this story:, “We needed a survey to tell us this?”

We're suffering through the dog days of August, and the only real breaking news is the back-on-again merger of Viacom and CBS, a drama that could spawn its own reality show -- if you think watching Shari Redstone can be considered entertainment. With half the reporters on vacation and the other half wondering if the heat index will pass 100 again today, this is a great time of year to release utter nonsense like the survey referenced above.

Raise your hand if you work in advertising and had never considered the downside of consumers seeing your brand message plastered “near pornographic content and hate speech.” Thank goodness we now have affirmation from 1,017 U.S. adults.

If you raised your hand, there's a job waiting for you in the Trump administration.

These guys are not the first (and certainly won’t be the last) to issue a totally meaningless but self-serving “study.” Tons of them run every day, with editors failing to point to obvious conflicts of interest or ways that the survey results can be mitigated by those who issued the study. Guess they are too worried about the heat index to bother.

The most amusing part of these “studies” are the quotes from senior-level execs who try to contextualize the results and emphasize just how vital they are to the world of advertising. "We were surprised at the nuanced understanding of brand safety risks shown by respondents in this survey," said one. Really? And you are IN the brand protection business?

"While reputational harm can be hard to measure, consumers said that they plan to vote with their wallets if brands fail to take the necessary steps to protect their supply chain from risks such as hate speech, malware, and piracy," said another, underscoring the study’s astounding glimpse into the obvious.

But you can’t argue with success. The story has run in a couple of key ad trades -- and, who knows, might be covered even more extensively in the coming days. After all, the heat index is still a thing.

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