Stagwell Study Finds Current Brand Safety Standards Are Unnecessarily Broad



Stagwell is out with the first of a series of what it’s calling “Future Of News” reports, which finds that brand safety standards currently in use are unnecessarily “demonetizing” the news industry.  



The study specifically looks at the impact of so-called news adjacency ads and found that ads placed next to news topics such as politics, inflation and crime perform as effectively as those placed next to business, entertainment and sports stories.  

Study findings include:  

  • Among Gen Z, the average purchase intent for brands whose ads were placed next to high-quality news articles on the Middle East conflict was 65%, compared to 66% for inflation and 67% for crime. Those differences are statistically insignificant, per the company. Purchase intent was 69% for sports (widely considered a ‘safe’ news topic) illustrating what the firm called “a minimal four percentage point difference between the ‘riskiest’ and ‘safest’ topics.  

  • Among more affluent American households, the average favorability ratings for brands whose ads were placed next to high-quality political news articles on former President Trump and President Biden were each 72% – two percentage points less than brands whose ads were placed next to a non-political entertainment story.  

  • Among moms, the average purchase intent for brands whose ads were placed next to articles on inflation and business were 70% each. Purchase intent was only two percentage points less for brands whose ads were placed next to a news story about crime with the words “subway shooting” in the title. According to Stagwell, those words get blocked “as a matter of course with today’s brand safety practices.”  

“Our research shows brands shouldn't fear advertising on news—but rather relish it,” said Stagwell chairman and CEO Mark Penn. “News junkies, who make up 25% of Americans, are one of the most valuable yet under-tapped marketing audiences. Instead of feeding the vicious cycle of news demonetization that hurts quality journalism the most, advertisers should kickstart a virtuous cycle of investing in news that allows brands to reach valuable audiences and gives quality news content the financial stability it needs to thrive.”  

The quantitative online survey was conducted among 49,990 U.S. adults from March 29 to April 19. The survey data was weighted to a nationally representative sample of American adults across key demographics, including age, gender, region, race/ethnicity, education and income.   

“Brand safety considerations have become prevalent in the media and marketing industries, but they require serious scientific evaluation and more rigorous metrics to assess whether brands really face dangers from news adjacency,” said Dritan Nesho, CEO of HarrisX.   

The study, Nesho added, “shows clearly and repeatedly that ads next to news content that is currently considered ‘not brand safe’ performs on par with ads next to what is currently considered ‘brand safe.’” 




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