If Brands Want Diverse and Competitive Content, They Must Change Their Media Plans

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by Ori Elraviv, CEO at Literally Media

In the recent announcement by the “Partnership for Responsible Addressable Media,” the group revealed that trade bodies like the ANA and the IAB state “Consumers should have access to diverse and competitive content offerings, supported by their choices to engage with digital advertising in exchange for content and services.”

Good publishers should hold advertisers to this standard more publicly. Many advertisers are not currently supporting “diverse and competitive content offerings.” According to the market research company eMarketer, Facebook and Google will receive 60.7% of all US digital ad spending in 2020, a period mired in controversies about misinformation and hate speech. Advertisers are doing very little to support diversifying offerings with their ad spending, offerings that offer the positive content people are craving.

Many people have become fed up with negativity and false information. Earlier this month, the Knight Foundation published the results from their 2020 study about trust in the media. According to the report, seventy-three percent of Americans surveyed want to see major internet companies find ways to exclude false and hateful information online. The spread of misinformation online is widely considered a major problem, and people are eager to consume more trustworthy, positive content online.

It is clear advertisers are still addicted to audience targeting at the expense of nearly everything else. Focusing on new audience targeting solutions while just paying lip service to content quality and diversity isn’t going to be enough to create a healthy media ecosystem.

Create a Consciously Diverse Media Plan

Buying two-thirds of your digital media on two sites isn’t a plan, it’s a cop-out. In the down economy, brands are asking their agencies to do more with less, which is translating into more Facebook and Google, and less creative media buying. It might offer a scale, but it sacrifices a lot else. YouTube is pushing their subscription model, so its video advertising experiences are degrading, with higher ratios of ads-to-content.

In creating new targeting solutions that can be adopted across numerous sites, brands should look for ways to identify audiences in diverse environments and put a premium on impressions that find an audience in a new setting. This will increase the number of sites included in a media plan, and stop promoting an unfair advantage over quality.

Research confirms that ads perform best in quality contexts, defined as trusted editorial sites, including news. 

Finding more premium contexts will require updates to ad blocking strategies. Media buyers have been called out for blocking news in 2020, blacklisting good sites and using keywords to block a lot of good content. A strategy that blocks “coronavirus” across an entire media plan not only hurts news sites, but also miss out on opportunities to advertise on sketch comedy videos, how-to content, and homeschooling tutorials, all premium, engaging content.

New Content Habits Requires New Media Strategies

There are many new standards advertisers could create that could improve the quality and diversity of content – standards that should replace blacklists and keyword blocking. Advertisers should look at the amount of polarizing content, misinformation and negative content on a site as an indicator of a problem.

In a recent interview, Twitter CEO Jack Dorsey noted that the company was thinking about ways to limit the spread of misinformation. One idea he mentioned was to make sure people had engaged with an article before they would be allowed to send it. This kind of engagement metric could be useful for brands, too. They need to understand what content people care about the most.

For example, YouTube highlighted the content that was most popular during the early weeks of coronavirus and found that it was almost universally positive (outside of news and information about the pandemic itself.) Top categories included cooking, exercise, tutorials, and other “self-betterment.”

Humor, too, is an often-overlooked positive content category. Brands are often concerned that humor will be polarizing or controversial and block the entire category. But, especially in times like now, humor plays a particularly important role in people’s lives, and advertisers are missing opportunities to be part of that. Using sentiment analysis to better separate positive humor experiences from any humor that might be riskier would help advertisers reach their audience in highly valuable contexts.


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