With all the fake news out there, is it worth the risk for brands to advertise on digital platforms when they may get placed next to or within fake news or other offensive content without even realizing it?

Not really, concluded a panel entitled “Truth, Lies and the News” at PromaxBDA: The Conference 2017 in Los Angeles. But it also might not matter. Platforms are getting wise to brands’ concerns and aggressively changing their policies. If they don’t, they could face immediate financial consequences.

“I believe Breitbart is down 90% in advertising from a year ago,” noted moderator Dylan Byers, CNN senior media reporter.

For example, in May, Google adjusted its advertising policies, stating that it would remove ads from individual web pages that violate its standards. In the past, Google would suspend entire websites and although that can still happen, it’s expected to happen less frequently under the new policy.

“It means really two things for publishers: It means that we can be more specific about where we take action and it means that we can take action more quickly,” Scott Spencer, Google’s director of product management, told Recode.

It also means that websites might get pinged more frequently but the overall financial hit will be less if advertisements are only pulled from specific pages as opposed to the whole site.

Google made the change after media reports noted that ads were running next to videos from hate groups and other extremists. That prompted big corporations such as AT&T and Verizon to remove their ads from YouTube.

YouTube was quick to respond, with Chief Business Officer Philipp Schindler telling Recode that a newer version of the software has allowed the service to target five times more videos that the service felt would be offensive to advertisers and keep them clear of ads.

The polarized political climate also is creating a fraught environment for advertisers when it comes to television.

For example, many advertisers pulled their advertising out of Fox News’ The Bill O’Reilly Show after O’Reilly was accused of sexual harassment in the wake of the ouster of late Fox News Chairman and CEO Roger Ailes. That resulted in the cancellation of that show and the firing of O’Reilly, even though he remained Fox News’ highest-rated anchor.

“Nowadays, there are so many watchdogs on social media who are out to politicize every social scandal. Any time there’s a scandal they don’t like or they think publishes fake news – they will publicly call you out. This has created an environment that’s like a domino effect,” says Sara Fischer, media reporter for Axios.

Earlier this week, both Apple and Google announced they will include ad-blocking technology in their Safari and Chrome browsers. Apple will start blocking autoplay videos on Safari, a browser that’s used by 10% of the browsing public. Google will add an ad blocker to Chrome, used by 51% of browsers, and also will block sites that host ad units that don’t adhere to a certain set of internet advertising standards.

What this means for the future is a cleaner, easier-to-use internet, according to the panel.

“Economically, we are headed to a cleaner, more friendly internet,” said Fischer. “We’ve hit a saturation point. Talk to people like Comscore – they will tell you we’ve reached Peak App. We are plateauing across every digital metric. Facebook told investors this year to expect our revenue to come down because we have reached news feed saturation.”

There are still pitfalls digital advertisers need to avoid though, says Sasha Issenberg, Washington correspondent for Monacle.

“The less you are buying programmatically from certain networks, if you are buying individually matched cookies or IP addresses, there’s a smaller chance that you are buying something that can be boycotted,” says Issenberg. “But you can still be held accountable for helping to subsidize a personality who has become toxic.”


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