Brands Can Safely Advertise Adjacent to Quality News Content – ‘Despite Overblown Fears’

According to the survey, ads placed adjacent to news topics such as politics, inflation, and crime perform as effectively as those placed next to business, entertainment, and sports stories.

According to a new study focused on brand safety, Americans are smart enough to know the difference between a news story and an ad – underscoring that the current standards used for ‘brand safety’ are too broad and limit advertisers from engaging with valuable consumer audiences.

This is just one of several insights revealed in a study of 50,000 U.S. adults released by Stagwell, which is launching a series of ‘Future of News’ studies and events to fuel discussions on the importance of advertising in news.

Stagwell’s inaugural research for the series examines the concept of brand safety—the measures taken to ensure a brand’s advertisements don’t appear alongside content that could potentially harm that brand’s reputation. Because the current approach to brand safety disproportionately hurts the news industry, Stagwell created a study to determine the real impact of ad adjacency.


 

“…advertisers should kickstart a virtuous cycle of investing in news that allows brands to reach valuable audiences and gives quality news content the financial stability it needs to thrive.”

The survey reveals that ads placed adjacent to news topics such as politics, inflation and crime perform as effectively as those placed next to business, entertainment and sports stories.

“Our research shows brands shouldn’t fear advertising on news—but rather relish it.  News junkies, who make up 25% of Americans, are one of the most valuable yet under-tapped marketing audiences,” said Mark Penn, Chairman and CEO of  Stagwell.

“Instead of feeding the vicious cycle of news demonetization that hurts quality journalism the most, advertisers should kickstart a virtuous cycle of investing in news that allows brands to reach valuable audiences and gives quality news content the financial stability it needs to thrive.”


 

Highlights from the survey

  • Among Gen Z, the average purchase intent for brands whose ads were placed next to high-quality news articles on the Middle East conflict was 65%, compared to 66% for inflation and 67% for crime—differences that are statistically insignificant. Purchase intent was 69% for sports (widely considered a ‘safe’ news topic) illustrating a minimal four percentage point difference between the ‘riskiest’ and ‘safest’ topics.
  • Among more affluent American households, the average favorability ratings for brands whose ads were placed next to high-quality, yet political news articles on former President Trump and President Biden were each 72%—just two percentage points less than brands whose ads were placed next to a non-political entertainment story.
  • Among moms, the average purchase intent for brands whose ads were placed next to articles on inflation (a potentially negative story), and business (a more neutral story) were each 70%, showing no difference between the two. Purchase intent was only two percentage points less for brands whose ads were placed next to a news story about crime with the words “subway shooting” in the title—words that get blocked as a matter of course with today’s brand safety practices.

“Brand safety considerations have become prevalent in the media and marketing industries, but they require serious scientific evaluation and more rigorous metrics to assess whether brands really face dangers from news adjacency,” said Dritan Nesho, CEO of HarrisX, which conducted the study.

“Our study shows clearly and repeatedly that ads next to news content that is currently considered ‘not brand safe’ performs on par with ads next to what is currently considered ‘brand safe.'”

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