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07 March 2019

Media Leaders Call On Advertisers To Stop Inadvertently Funding Terror Through The Tech Platforms

Media leaders including News Media Association chairman David Dinsmore have called on advertisers to interrogate their online ad spend to make certain they are not inadvertently funding terror through the tech platforms.

Speaking alongside Mr Dinsmore in a panel session at ISBA’s annual conference this week, Thinkbox chair Tess Alps called on advertisers to take action to break the economic model of advertisers inadvertently funding the platforms which host terror content, and instead look to brand-safe and trusted media.

Mr Dinsmore predicted a regulatory and political backlash against the tech giants, as well as a heightened importance in the nature of the relationship with the consumer. “Context will become more important and how we actually speak to our consumers and the way in which we do it," he said.   

The conference heard from Commander Clarke Jarrett, Counter Terrorism Command, New Scotland Yard, who detailed how terrorist organisations use the tech platforms to distribute propaganda designed to recruit new followers or assist acts of terrorism.

He told the audience of advertisers that they should keep pushing the tech platforms to create an appropriate environment in order to help stifle the distribution of terrorist propaganda. “They do listen to money, I think that’s an important part of it, obviously that’s their business model,” he said.  

The conference also heard from Guardian Media Group chief executive officer David Pemsel who called for the Competition and Markets Authority to look into the digital advertising marketplace to crack down on ad fraud. 

In conversation with Bloomberg Brexit and media reporter Joe Mayes, Mr Pemsel said: “The thing that concerns us greatly is the opaque trading mechanisms between the way in which clients buy digital inventory and how that money flows through ultimately to content creators like ourselves.  

“There is an opaqueness that sits between that trading currency which means, some latest figures have suggested, there is ad fraud of up to nine per cent which equates to about $19 billion globally.

“The only thing I ask when I sit on stages like this is to say that the biggest advertisers in the world need to understand the relationship between what they are potentially buying and, ultimately, the recipient of where that money goes which is supposed to be us.

“I do think that there is the technical capability to be able to understand far more transparent receipting between the buying of an impression, what the client spends, and what we get. That fraud that sits between the buying and the money coming to us just needs to be sorted out.

“I think there’s a lot of interrogation and there should be regulation and there needs to be a deep dive into the mechanisms of that and I don’t think that’s sustainable.”

In a panel session looking at the shape of the media industry in five years time, Mr Dinsmore predicted a regulatory, political and public backlash against the tech platforms. 

He said: “Probably for the people in this room, the more important thing is that over the last five years, more and more money has been poured into the advertising environment and effectiveness has gone down.

“That clearly is a massive issue and I think that in five years’ time the people who are charged, ie you, with selling this stuff are going to realise that we have to do this in different ways, and that just pouring money into a digital black hole is not the answer in itself.   

“Context will become more important and how we actually speak to our consumers and the way in which we do it. It doesn’t have to be targeted at all times and we have to be wider.”

Ms Alps warned that advertisers were failing to distinguish between quality content and poor user generated content on social media. She said: “Unless advertisers step up and pay properly to have their advertising in quality television content, I fear that we’ll have to leave it to consumers to fund it directly.”

Talking about Marc Pritchard’s seminal call for greater transparency in the digital advertising marketplace, Ms Alps said: “If we’re going to get there by 2024 we really do need advertisers to leverage their investment wisely. Because there have been some great words spoken today, great ambitions, but we now need to move into actions.

“I really do think advertisers should be much more ruthless in who they support and who they don’t support and I know that online platforms have made substantial efforts to improve and things are getting better, but are they getting better fast enough? Are they only doing just enough to stop us moaning and then they wait for the next scandal?

“We have to say ‘should this content be online at all?’ Nobody’s going to stop ISIS setting up its own website, but should we really give them the incredible power of YouTube and Facebook? Should we allow those organisations to do harmful things to society?”   

She called on advertisers to demand that harmful content was not allowed to appear on the platforms in the first place, adding that the funding model of advertising investment inadvertently funding harmful content through the tech platforms should be stopped immediately.  

Agreeing with Ms Alps, to applause from the audience, Mr Dinsmore added: “The only thing I’d add to Tess’s comments are that there’s no problem in collecting money from the advertising that appears on these sites, that’s against this type of content, so there must be some way of taking that type of content off there in the first place.”

“As an industry we have a huge opportunity to be as transparent as humanly possible, and I think the same goes for TV, and that should be our offer to advertisers; that we are much more transparent than anything else, and you can trust the context in which your advertising runs alongside.”