Opinion: It’s time for brands to step up on fake news

Adam Broitman is managing partner of media agency MEC

Advertisers need to take a share of responsibility for solving the fake news problem. Too many large advertisers are still not demanding data concerning the whereabouts of their ads so long as reach and frequency numbers are hit. As long as advertisers turn a blind eye towards fake news, it will be a profitable endeavor for the bad guys; and despite the blame that can be placed on publishers and technology companies, as an advertiser you are equally to blame if you do not take a stand against the fake news infection.

Product placement would not be so big in Hollywood if brands did not want to be associated with media and entertainment properties. If you are an auto manufacturer and your vehicle is in a James Bond film, the brand story equals adventure. So what is the brand story when an ad shows up next to an article about the Pope supporting Donald Trump? It is one thing if the article’s intent is to be satirical, but it is another if the article is positioned as fact. As a brand, you are where you advertise and if your advertising is adjacent to media that lacks credibility, you lose credibility as well.

Along with their other services intended to help advertisers ensure that ads are both viewable, and not in unsavory or fraudulent arenas, DoubleVerify just launched a tool to help combat ad placement next to fake news. According to DoubleVerify’s CEO Wayne Gattinella, “Trust and transparency are critical to the growth of digital media”. To take this a step further, trust and transparency are critical to all media, and as a result, critical to society.

As an advertiser, it is your responsibility to police your own advertising; otherwise you’re a fueling industries that pollute the entire media ecosystem. It is imperative that you consider DoubleVerify or one of their competitors. No excuses!

If you work in advertising and media, there is an inherent personal responsibility for combating fake news—after all, you are one of the few that are responsible for making decisions that affect the flow of information in society. In addition to using sites like Snopes for fact checking, you should also read about the work that Google is doing on fact checking and if you run a website, consider learning more about Schema.org’s markup for ClaimReviews. In addition, you owe it to your social circles, co-workers and clients (if you are an agent) to not spread fake news, or spread the fake stuff with disclaimers. This will assist those individuals responsible for media buying in ensuring that their advertising is not paying for the production of fake news.

Culture is shaped by media but as a society, we shape the culture that drives the media—and as advertisers we fuel the media ecosystem with capital. It is imperative that, as practitioners in the advertising space we act responsibly in what we demand from media owners. If we are willing to settle for adjacency to fake news, fake news will continue to be created and the cycle will continue. As news media’s largest benefactor, advertisers can have an impact on the future of fake news creation. What will your impact be?


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