Target, MTV Separate Church And State

As marketers take steps to protect their brands, some have begun to tell publishers not to run their ads near news articles related to the Black Lives Matter movement. Separately, marketers at Target and MTV have added words to their “blocklist,” similar to what was formerly called “blacklists,” to block their advertisements from serving up next to articles mentioning “Breonna Taylor” and “George Floyd,” as well as those with the word “protests.”

As noted in a Wall Street Journal article, these types of lists aren’t new. They do, however, often contain words like “shooting,” “bomb,” “immigration,” and nowadays, “Trump.”



The idea is to avoid an association with controversial topics.

“It’s defunding our journalism at a time when it’s imperative for us to be the front lines doing this kind of work,” Paul Wallace, Vice Media’s VP for global revenue products and services, told the WSJ.

Perhaps journalism needs to eliminate bias in the industry rather than feed into the “most popular news,” especially when it can lead to harmful consequences. This doesn’t mean readers who go to publisher websites won’t read the news. It simply means a separation of church and state.

“Due to the comedic nature of the show...we didn’t want to be insensitive by placing ads for it next to important and serious topics, such as Black Lives Matter,” a MTV spokesperson told the WSJ. “This is standard practice we use with our media agency to ensure that our ads don’t come across as tone-deaf or disrespectful.”

The move proves these brands are in touch with society, yet remain sensitive to those consumers who wish not to continually be bombarded with biased content. It might even increase performance of publisher websites, regardless of how many advertising spots they sell. 

Nor should this move by the brands discount the importance of reporting on topics like Black Lives Matter or systemic change.

But publishers, even search engines, should distance themselves from capitalizing on news such as the burning of the 249-year-old San Gabriel Mission church in California.

Authorities say they have not determined the cause of the fire, but the statue that once stood outside since the 1980s was relocated out of public view, citing activists’ toppling of Serra’s statues across California.

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