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Survey: US viewers accept ads near controversial news

October 28, 2022

Despite graphic violence in news coverage of the war in Ukraine and other controversial topics in the news, US consumers broadly believe that all news content is appropriate for ads, according to the 2022 TAG/BSI US Consumer Brand Safety Survey, conducted by the Trustworthy Accountability Group (TAG) and Brand Safety Institute (BSI).

Only one in four respondents said any specific news topic should be off-limits to ads, while nearly half (46 per cent) said all high-quality journalism should be appropriate for ads. Reinforcing those findings by more than a two-to-one margin (69 per cent to 31 per cent), respondents said the importance of ad funding for coverage of the Ukraine war outweighed any risk of violent content in that coverage.

“It looks like the answer to ‘What is brand-safe journalism?’ may be ‘All of it,’” said Mike Zaneis, CEO of TAG, the certification programme fighting criminal activity and strengthening brand safety in the digital advertising industry. “Consumers clearly see the value to high-quality, ad-supported journalism, and they prioritise funding for those news-gathering operations over any risk of ad misplacement with sensitive or controversial news-related content. This is good news for both advertisers and publishers, who can protect ad-funded journalism and the large audiences who follow it, while turning their attention to more complex brand suitability issues around the types of content that are most appropriate for their brands.”

When asked about specific topics, only small minorities of respondents said news coverage of those subjects should not be supported by ads, such as news about the war in Ukraine (19 per cent), COVID-19 (19 per cent), riots/civil unrest (22 per cent), police brutality (22 per cent), drug abuse/overdoses (23 per cent), LGBTQ+ issues (23 per cent), abortion (23 per cent), school shootings (25 per cent), controversial politicians (26 per cent), or murder/violent crime (27 per cent).

By contrast, far larger per centages of respondents said nine other types of non-news content should be blocked by advertisers. Those ‘noxious nine’ topics, which align with equivalent categories in the GARM Brand Safety Suitability Framework, are:

  • Sexually-explicit or pornographic content (70 per cent said block nearby ads)
  • Hate speech or racist content (70 per cent)
  • Unsafe or hacked websites (68 per cent)
  • Illegal drug-related content (65 per cent)
  • Terrorism-related content (59 per cent)
  • Content about violence, injury, or death (53 per cent)
  • Stolen/pirated movies or TV shows (48 per cent)
  • Profanity or obscene language (48 per cent)
  • Gun and ammunition-related content (46 per cent)

“Brand safety issues are complicated and often involve a spectrum of shades of grey, which is why education of key stakeholders across the industry is so important,” said Neal Thurman, co-founder of BSI. “This survey highlights the nuanced perspective that consumers are developing around brand safety and suitability topics, and the findings can help inform the decisions that brands, publishers, and other stakeholders are making, as they work to protect their brands, ad campaigns, and customers from unsafe and inappropriate content.”

Among other findings:

  • Consumers believe that brand unsafe content is pervasive online, with respondents saying they believe roughly half (51 per cent) of all online content is dangerous, offensive, or inappropriate
  • More than three-quarters (76 per cent) said the U.S. had the biggest problem with dangerous, offensive, or inappropriate content online versus just 11 per cent for the U.K./Europe and 13 per cent for the Asia-Pacific region
  • A large majority of respondents (85 per cent) said hate speech has increased online over the last year, including 45 per cent saying it increased “a great deal”
  • An overwhelming majority (88 per cent) said it is very or somewhat important that advertisers ensure their ads are not placed near brand unsafe content
  • A similarly large group of respondents (88 per cent) said they would feel more positive about a company that required its partners to be independently certified for brand safety
  • Respondents felt the responsibility for brand safety should be shared across participants in the ad ecosystem, including advertisers (60 per cent), ad agencies (58 per cent), tech providers (48 per cent), and publishers (59 per cent)

This is the fourth consumer survey conducted by TAG and BSI on brand safety topics, following a survey conducted of UK consumers in 2022 and the last survey conducted of US consumers in 2020.


Categories: Ads, Advertising, Articles, Broadcast, Consumer Behaviour, Content, Markets, Research

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