Blackmail or Brand safety ?

At the end of November retailer Paperchase stopped a promotion that they were running with British tabloid the Daily Mail.  They did this after there was a backlash on social media from  customers over the brand working with the Daily Mail. This action was highlighted by UK activism group Stop Funding Hate.

Since this hit the headlines there has been a clutch of people stating what they think, including quite a few people from within the marketing industry. The line from a lot within the industry seems to be that it is just the voice of a small vocal minority and that it’s a form of blackmail by groups like Stop Funding Hate in the UK and Sleeping Giants in the US.

I think there is more to it than that though. One of the big take aways from the problems that hit Google and YouTube this year was the fact that brand safety was more important than ever.

There are some who have suggested this is a left/right argument, but I think it is important to note that there are right wing papers such as the Telegraph who do not get the same protests. This isn’t an argument of left/right it’s an argument about the way the Express, Sun and Daily Mail report  certain stories in a way which could be described as stirring up anti-foreigner etc feelings, something not all right wing papers do. The same counts in the US where most right wing papers do not get the same protests that Breitbart gets because there is a difference between being right wing and hate mongering.  It’s easy to look at things in political ways but not everything comes into those ethical brackets, it is not Left good and right bad, and people on both the right and left could do with remembering that is not what these protests are about.

Both Sleeping Giants and Stop Funding Hate state specifically that they are apolitical and what they are doing is not a right/left argument but is just about decency. This is the important point, sometimes it’s about doing the right thing and do you want your products and branding associated with a newspaper who has no problem employing someone who refers to migrants as cockroaches.

Last year the European Commission against Racism and Intolerance (ECRI), last year singled out both The Sun and Daily Mail in a report on “hate speech” and discrimination in the UK, and they are an apolitical organisation with no vested interest. With ad placement and brand safety becoming a bigger and bigger issue, then I’m not sure you can blame people for not wanting their ads associated with media described by the ECRI as using “offensive, discriminatory and provocative terminology”. At the time ECRI chair Christian Ahlund said: “It is no coincidence that racist violence is on the rise in the UK at the same time as we see worrying examples of intolerance and hate speech in the newspapers, online and even among politicians,”.

Bearing all of that in mind and the importance of brand safety, it seems like this is not as simple as companies being held to ransom, there are issues with having your brand linked to papers such as the Daily Mail. If the UN Commission against Racism and Intolerance feels the need to highlight a newspaper do you really want to be associated with them, or is it easier and more ethical for your brand to be advertising somewhere else. Do you really want your beand associated with articles where migrants are described as cockroaches or where someone’s sexuality is used as a way to attck them this is the dilemma that awaits many advertisers – yes certain newspapers have large circulations, but there is also the danger of association, and in many cases the fact is many companies do not want that association and with a rise in the importance of brand safety that is more and more important.


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  1. […] to our blog about brand placement or blackmail, it has been announced that Virgin Trains are going to stop selling the controversial Daily Mail […]

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