Brand safety is vital, but are we being too cautious with hard news? The second commercial panel at Festival of News explored how advertisers can harness its power while still addressing consumers in a brand safe way
Michelle Sarpong, trading director at the7stars, questioned whether the industry has become too risk averse with news content: “We have a fear of risk and that’s both agencies and clients. If there is a small risk we would rather not take it.
“We have probably gone too far with that. The risk is probably not as great as we would think, especially when it’s in the right context.”
Providing an advertiser’s perspective and underlining hard news’s importance to effective advertising, Richard Warren, director of marketing communications, Lloyds Banking Group, agreed: “We think big news is big news. We absolutely want to be seen alongside big news.”
He added: “I haven’t had a discussion about brand safety in a news environment for the past three years. That’s because I am completely confident.”
Panellists from news brands were clear about the power of engaged audiences around particularly impactful coverage.
Claire Blunt, The Guardian’s chief advertising officer, said: “Our results speak for themselves. What we absolutely know is that the most engaged audiences are those that are reading great information and that is what we are providing all the time.”
In comparison to other online information readers can access that may be less reliable, Karen Eccles, managing director of digital and innovation at Telegraph Media Group, said publishers have to stand up for the quality of their news content: “Everything that’s published in regulated news is there and stays there. It’s just not like other forms of digital content.”
Denise Turner, Newsworks director of research and insight and panel moderator, urged agencies in the room to go back and look at their blocklists when it comes to practical ways to invest responsibly in media in a brand safe way: “There is technology that can categorise content by positive and negative and that is so much better than working to a blocklist of keywords.”
She added: “Publishers should continue to promote the value of their environments. The bigger issue is that you are responsible for highly valuable, highly trusted environments that advertisers love to be a part of. Publishers need to own their narratives.”
Blunt agreed with Turner, saying that The Guardian sees greater brand uplift with what’s considered to be ‘risky content’. However, she pointed out that: “Black lives content monetised at 47% lower than other content. That is not acceptable. We need to focus on hard news being good news.”