blog: Don Marti


Beans, botulism, and brand safety

17 October 2019

Everyone is writing long thoughtful pieces about how some social media company CEO should do this or that.

What a waste of carpal tunnels. Social media CEOs know what they're doing about as much as Clostridium botulinum knows that it's giving people botulism.

If your brand is all about canned beans, and you find out that some of the the cans have C. botulinum in them, you don't write a long think piece about how C. botulinum should carefully consider its impact on human health. You don't go to a conference and get on a panel about how botulism is an industry-wide problem. You don't invite C. botulinum to give a talk at a college campus.

Brand safety is a little behind food safety, though. For a long time, think pieces and conference talks have taken the place of action, while brands end up in worse and worse places. That is the brand marketer's responsibility. David Kohl writes,

[A]dvertisers have the power to reduce the spread of misinformation by withdrawing media dollars from platforms that enable its distribution. Consumers are nearly three times less willing to associate with brands that advertise alongside unsavory, offensive content (see Magna’s Brand Safety Effect). And according to Edelman, 48 percent of consumers feel it is a brand’s own fault if their advertising appears near inappropriate social media content. Simply said, advertisers put their brands at risk by placing their media budgets in the hands of platform providers that fail to take full responsibility for the content they distribute.

Starting in 2020, when a brand runs an ad on social and it ends up sponsoring a death threat against a journalist, or a video of someone abusing their kids, or a domestic terrorist recruiting page, the people who made that bad advertising decision are going to find out. Starting in 2020, California gets the California Consumer Privacy Act (CCPA).

When people see brand ads running on all the evil shit that the social media companies are pushing out, they're not going to fill out some ToS report form when CCPA is available. And those CCPA demands will come to the brands responsible.

Which is great news. Handling CCPA demands is likely to be costly. So avoiding them gives everybody a reason to do the right thing, and move ads away from problem activities. Brand safety and isn't just another marketing checklist item. Do it right and it's your ticket to getting on the right side of history.

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