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IAB urgent call: stop blocking advertising on critical news sites


IAB urgent call: stop blocking advertising on critical news sites


The Interactive Advertising Bureau (IAB) has issued an urgent call for digital advertisers to stop blocking COVID related topics and to support credible news sites at this crucial time. 

According to IAB, many brands and agency teams have updated their programmatic and media buying to prevent any advertising on pages that contain topics or words including ‘crisis’, ‘COVID-19’ and ‘coronavirus’. This measure has had an inadvertent effect of cutting off much-needed advertising revenue to premium content sites.

By blocking these key topics, advertisers are siphoning income from credible news sites who are heavily invested in keeping the public informed about the pandemic.

“It’s essential that brands support news and journalism because with this content now so ubiquitous, without advertising support it will be simply unworkable and unsustainable for the production of news content,” says Gai Le Roy, CEO of IAB Australia.

Overall time spent on digital news sites and apps is up 29 percent according to the IAB endorsed Nielsen industry audience measurement currency. Despite huge traffic spikes advertisers have not met the demand, according to IAB.

“Brands that are making lazy decisions to block or avoid news for their current advertising are not only hurting news publishers and journalism, they are missing a cast iron opportunity to really connect with audiences. Now is the time to step up and not shrink into the shadows and I encourage brands and their agencies to work closely with publishers at this time to understand and deploy sensible and appropriate solutions,” says Alistair McEwan, SVP commercial development APAC, BBC Global News.

The Australian Association of National Advertisers (AANA) says that both consumer and business-to-business behaviour has, understandably, altered radically over the past few weeks with discretionary spend evaporating as organisations seek to preserve cash flow in the short term. Advertisers are making decisions based on what is commercially sensible and also appropriate at this time.

The AANA acknowledged the value of supporting trusted news sources and working together to mitigate against any unintended outcomes in a statement.

Advertisers may be nervous about spending budget or seeming to profit from the crisis. Neil Robinson, managing director digital solutions at News Corp, says brands need to understand there is no stigma attached to essential news: “Appropriate, relevant and empathetic advertising on reputable and premium news sites around coronavirus content can be extremely powerful.” 

News organisations and publishers are calling on advertisers to support them during this critical time. Tereza Alexandratos, director, commercialisation and delivery at The Guardian says advertisers must “be brave enough” to have their messaging appear next to the most important news story of the decade.

Instead of simply blocking these keywords, the IAB recommends “always utilising semantic contextual targeting” which allows advertisers to discern the editorial context of the text on the page. 

Further advice from the IAB includes:

  • Be creative with the targeting attributes and utilise them in conjunction with publisher’s audience data to take advantage of the enormous levels of regularly returning highly engaged audiences on premium content sites. This will help buyers to build-out models that are much more precise, meaningful and robust.
  • Try to understand the basics of any verification vendor methodologies, regularly review performance during these critical times and be prepared to interpret the data directly.

Photo by Ilario Piatti on Unsplash.

Jasmine Giuliani

Jasmine Giuliani was the Editor of Marketing Mag from March 2020 to September 2021.

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