Commentary

Will Media Buyers Heed Vice's Plea About Racial Blocklisting?

The coronavirus pandemic amplified publisher disdain for keyword blocking as marketers requested their ads not appear next to stories about the health crisis -- even ones that weren't gloomy or scary.

Vice Media this week called attention to an even more infuriating case of "blocklisting" as the focus shifts to racism, police brutality and mass protests.

Following the death of George Floyd, a Black man killed in the custody of a White police officer in Minneapolis, advertisers are now adding words terms like "George Floyd," "protest" and even "Minneapolis" to their blocklists, Vice said this week in a damning presentation to advertisers during the IAB's NewFronts.
News coverage of protests about police brutality generates CPMs that are 57% less than other stories, according to data cited by Marsha Cooke, senior vice president of Vice Impact, in a five-minute video for the NewFronts. Some advertisers canceled their media buys because of the unrest, she said.

She also described how the ad agency for a major entertainment company put the phrases "Black Lives Matter" and "Black people" on a blocklist -- the same week the company announced support for the protest movement.
“That's not OK," she said. "It proves advertisers are blocking this topic, making it difficult for us to support the most important job we have: journalism.”
Cooke reminded advertisers that last year, Vice earned accolades for unblocking words like "gay," "fat" and "Muslim" as part of its effort to be more inclusive. She also urged advertisers and their agencies to review their blocklisting practices and to find other "contextual-based solutions" that won't undermine publishers.
I hope advertisers and their agencies heed Cooke's call to support journalism during an especially distressing period for publishers.
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