Study Finds Corporate Values Increasingly Becoming ‘Additional Criteria For Media Buying.’

Four in five advertisers on the brand or agency side say corporate responsibility and brand values are playing a larger role in media buying, according to the results of an Advertiser Perceptions study, as reported by Marketing Dive. Six in ten of those surveyed – compared to 42% in 2020 – are willing to downgrade or drop media partners that fail to meet their standards, even if they deliver on performance, resulting in four in ten having cut spending with a major platform so far in 2021.

Advertiser Perceptions' findings suggest marketers are increasingly willing to sacrifice some of their reach if it ensures that ads appear in brand-suitable environments where they have more control, as four in five surveyed say they want greater oversight over where their ads appear, as well as a clearer line of sight into who profits from placing those ads. "Advertisers' approaches now go beyond the obvious brand safety floor content like guns, nudity or violence," Advertiser Perceptions Executive VP of Business Intelligence Sarah Bolton says. "They're assessing brand suitability through a lens specific to their brand and corporate values, and making those additional criteria for media buying."

The survey of 250 advertisers – 57% from agencies, 43% brand marketers – shows higher expectations for brand safety are complemented by a rising premium on social causes, with 38% of respondents citing anti-racism and social justice, 31% COVID and 23% climate change, while support of quality journalism and news integrity was the top cause for 20%. For more than half (54%) of advertisers who have cut spending with a major platform this year, hate and disinformation were driving factors, while a campaign's underperformance drove the cut for 51%.

In the wake of digital platforms coming under increased scrutiny, spearheaded by the highly-publicized whistleblower complaint aimed at Facebook for putting profit over control of misinformation and hate speech, 85% of advertisers say such platforms need to adopt third-party verification to ensure brand safety moving forward, while three-quarters feel they should be held more responsible for harmful material. Marketing Dive's story notes that even while marketers show greater concern for these issues, they remain wary of associating brands with topics that can alienate consumers, with recent reports having called out how marketers' keyword-blocking lists include discussions of racism, COVID and climate change, hurting publisher revenue and potentially the resources to expand coverage of these areas.

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