4A’s Advises Brands to Rethink Suitability Around News Content

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Key insights:

Advertisers may be missing out by avoiding news coverage, an issue the 4As is attempting to address.

Today, the 4A’s Advertisers Protection Bureau published a position paper, titled Cross-Industry Collaboration to Redefine Brand Suitability in Trusted News Environments: A Call to Action, to help navigate the nuances of brand safety and suitability in relation to news content and address shortcomings related to existing protocols, while suggesting short-term measures to address these issues.

Among the paper’s major findings is that most news is actually brand safe, although not necessarily brand suitable. It characterizes wide-ranging “blacklists” around given terms or topics as infrequently updated and often excessive measures. The 4A’s advises, instead, that brand suitability parameters “should be regularly updated and evaluated based on real-time criteria.”

According to 4A’s president and CEO Marla Kaplowitz, the new guidelines are intended to “maximize brand safety and suitability for brands, while at the same time encouraging responsible journalism and a financially rewarding ecosystem for publishers.”

The guidelines were created after extensive deliberation among APB members and industry partners such as IAB Tech Lab, TRUSTX, DCN, Turner Media, Double Verify, Integral Ad Science and Oracle, according to Kaplowitz.

4A’s had identified premium news as an area to address last June, she explained, calling the release of the paper “the first step towards a fairer, more accurate assessment of brand-suitable news content and a more economically robust and viable business model for publishers.”

“The APB has been instrumental in taking steps to create a common understanding around the issue, and providing the necessary framework to cultivate a safe space for industry-wide collaboration,” she said.

While the 4A’s decided to pursue the topic long before the coronavirus pandemic became an everyday reality, Kaplowitz said the subject had gained increased importance in the wake of the crisis.

“The ubiquitous coverage and increase in consumption in news highlights the opportunity for brands to engage in the premium news environment. We’re also seeing an increase in fraud and malvertising coinciding with the rise of COVID-19 in the past few weeks,” she said. “So now more than ever, advertisers need to evaluate their brand-suitability parameters and risk tolerances in real time, based on ever-changing standards and criteria.”

“We’re at a crossroads where we need to educate the advertising ecosystem to use suitability controls versus safety controls in the news,” said Yale Cohen, evp of global activation standards at Publicis MEedia, in a statement. “With 90% of people responding favorably or neutrally when ad adjacencies appear next to serious content like COVID-19, the APB’s call to action on brand suitability comes at a critical time—supporting new advertising vehicles and streams for publishers that can help share information for the good of consumers, while also elevating responsible controls for agencies and marketers to make informed decisions in the news space.”

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