Stop Your Brand From Accidentally Funding Misinformation

5 minutes
Sep 20, 2022
Digital Marketing

The 2021 Edelman Trust Barometer reports that many consumers suspect businesses and institutions of spreading misinformation to achieve their selfish interests. Sadly, this is partly true. Most brands are inadvertently...

The 2021 Edelman Trust Barometer reports that many consumers suspect businesses and institutions of spreading misinformation to achieve their selfish interests. Sadly, this is partly true. Most brands are inadvertently funding misinformation, don’t realize it, and want nothing to do with it. 

Most brands become associated with misinformation because their ads programmatically appear on untrustworthy websites. Unfortunately, many of these brands have limited control over where their ads appear. 

Even unintentionally associating your brand with misinformation can damage your brand’s reputation and result in the  loss of customers and investments. 

Fortunately, this issue is simple to avoid with the right programmatic advertising partners. Here is a quick overview of the danger and solutions for keeping your brand — and the public — safe. 

The Negative Impacts of Misinformation on Society 

A recent Business Insider piece reports that brands unwittingly spent more than $2.6 billion on misinformation in a single year. Notably, ad revenue is one of the main drivers behind the alarming increase in sites spreading misinformation. 

Misinformation spreads through virtually every online platform. Social media platforms such as Twitter and Facebook are especially popular with propagators of misinformation because of their organic, direct engagement. 

Notably, Twitter users are 70% more likely to retweet misinformation than real, verified news. At the same time, about 53% of Americans get their news from social media. 

Misinformation is a central subject in the political sphere, and there are credible concerns that fake news impacted the two most recent presidential election cycles in the United States, as well as many elections worldwide including the Brexit vote in the United Kingdom. 

Misinformation has also been blamed for conspiracies about COVID-19 and coronavirus vaccines, worsening the pandemic. Alarmingly, about 80% of Americans encountered fake news regarding the pandemic. 

Fortunately, more people are becoming aware of misinformation and are trying to avoid it. Recent studies show that 52% of Americans encounter misinformation online, and 41% actively avoid news sources that peddle fake news. Overall, about 50% of Americans consider misinformation a significant problem. 

The Potential Consequences of Associating Your Brand With Misinformation 

B2b buyers now avoid brands associated with misinformation. Notably, about 55% of American adults avoid shopping from brands or websites associated with misinformation. 

The trigger for buyers avoiding your brand can be as simple as seeing your ad featured on a website spouting misinformation. It can also be complicated, like your brand getting embroiled in a misinformation discussion. This happened with both Pepsi and New Balance shoes during the 2016 presidential elections. 

Being associated with misinformation can have a negative impact on your bottom line as buyers will begin distancing themselves from your brand and stop purchasing your products. 

The Need for Responsible Programmatic Advertising 

Most brands unknowingly associate themselves with misinformation through programmatic advertising because:  

  • Programmatic platforms make it hard for advertisers to narrow their targeting to only trusted sites. Instead, they leave advertisers to create their own exclusion/inclusion lists. 
  • If your inclusion list is too small, you lose audience reach. If you rely on an exclusion list, you fight a never-ending battle against new low-quality sites that sneak into the ad exchanges.  
  • Marketers and media planners fail to review ad placement reports. Ideally, they would identify sites spreading misinformation and add them to exclusion lists … but this can be a never-ending battle.  

Your programmatic partner should eliminate most of these issues upfront through their own vetting processes. You should be the last line of defense — not the only defense against being associated with misinformation. 

Sites that peddle misinformation are generally low-quality. In contrast, verified sites usually have higher traffic and attract visitors that are more likely to be buyers. Ensuring ads only appear on high-quality sites will improve your ROI. 

4 Effective Tips to Avoid Placing Ads on Misinformation-Peddling Sites 

1. Maintain a Site Inclusion/Exclusion List 

Ideally, you should limit your ad placement to sites that don’t have a history of misinformation. Developing a site inclusion/exclusion list is the first step toward avoiding placing your ads on suspicious sites. 

A site inclusion/exclusion list is essentially an index of verified and suspicious sites. Unfortunately, even though many marketers have site inclusion/exclusion lists, they don’t always maintain or reference them when running ads. 

It’s important to monitor analytics closely to identify new problematic sites. Look where your ads appear most frequently and verify they provide quality content. Also, keep a skeptical eye out for sites that have extremely high click-through rates. Low-quality sites also frequently engage in click-farming. 

2. Blacklist Problematic Sites 

Whitelisting verified sites and blacklisting suspicious ones is the next step after developing a site inclusion/exclusion index. Essentially, this means programming your marketing and ad placement tools not to place ads on specific websites. 

3. Hire a Reliable Marketing Agency 

Many marketers are too overwhelmed to stay on top of inclusion/exclusion lists. Marketing agencies, on the other hand, can devote time to this task in order to better serve dozens or hundreds of clients.  

Your marketing agency should ensure that your ads feature only on the most suitable sites for your campaign. At the very least, you can ensure that they don’t feature on sites peddling misinformation. 

4. Use a DSP Platform That Simplifies Brand-Safe Advertising  

Responsible and advanced programmatic platforms will often maintain their own lists of safe, high-quality sites, as well as lists of sites that are untrustworthy. 

They’ll also make it easy for you to target only safe, high-quality sites. Too many programmatic platforms emphasize audience reach over all other factors — and will happily send your ad dollars and your brand reputation to all corners of the web.  

You deserve better. 6sense takes brand reputation seriously and balances reach with reputation.   

6sense’s Responsible Approach to Reaching B2B Buyers  

Focusing ad placement on more respectable sites can: 

  • Get a larger audience 
  • Earn you more leads 
  • Increase your marketing campaigns’ ROIs 
  • Protect your brand 

6sense offers you control over your programmatic campaigns, including ad placement. We also offer advanced marketing tools to boost your advertising and marketing campaigns’ performance. Get in touch or book a demo to learn how we can help.