Advertisers block 'Black Lives Matter' keywords, while public support for the movement skyrockets: Thursday Wake-Up Call
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There’s more news about racism and police violence than ever before, but many advertisers are deliberately shying away from associations with that coverage. “Marketers are increasingly preventing their ads from appearing alongside content related to Black Lives Matter protests, with some blocking keywords including ‘black people,’ ‘George Floyd’ or ‘BLM,’" writes Ad Age’s George P. Slefo.
Content that contains a blocked keyword is automatically excluded from programmatic buys, which means publishers lose out on ad revenue, forcing them to choose between coverage of important events or coverage that pays the bills.
The lists also perpetuate stereotypes—that content relevant to black people is controversial—and algorithms propagate words from list to list, compounding the problem. “The outrage of millions of people around the world and the subsequent protests is the most important conversation happening right now in our society and advertisers are running away from it,” Jason Kint, CEO of publisher trade body Digital Content Next, told Slefo.
In the past two weeks, net public support for Black Lives Matter has risen 11 percent—as much as it did over the previous two years.
Now, more than half of Americans believe that African Americans face discrimination and are more likely to be killed by the police than other Americans, a flip from 2013, when most Americans disagreed with those positions. And the percentage of Americans who believe racism is a “big problem” has risen 26 points since 2015.
Other issues have seen drastic shifts in public perception before, notably views on same-sex marriage. But some swings in opinion are short-lived, like support for gun control after mass shootings, which typically ebbs away quickly. Whether the same happens to Black Lives Matter is still an open question.
Media brands are falling in line behind BLM, too, though it’s often under duress. Bon Appetit, Condé Nast’s flagship cooking publication, posted a statement admitting that “Our mastheads have been far too white for far too long” after its editor in chief resigned following the resurfacing of a brownface photo and staffers of color revealed unequal pay among the content creators of its popular Test Kitchen video series. Anna Wintour, editor of Condé-owned Vogue, sent an email that said, “I know Vogue has not found enough ways to elevate and give space to Black editors, writers, photographers, designers and other creators”—a rare admission of error from one of the arbiters of fashion, which has long prioritized whiteness, lightness and thinness.
At the same time, NASCAR banned displays of the Confederate flag at events. That move came just after the Marines and the Navy did the same. That the battle flag of a nation defeated in a bloody war by those very branches of the Armed Forces could be openly displayed on their military bases until now should make it clear how deeply racism runs in this country.
President Trump, for his part, came down on the wrong side of history, tweeting his opposition to renaming military bases that are named for Confederate officers.
Apple will reopen is headquarters Jun. 15, but most of its employees will continue to work remotely for at least several more months. Workers will be required to wear masks at all times, and the company will implement daily health checks, temperature screenings and social-distancing measures.
Starbucks is moving ahead with reopening its stores, too, and is accelerating its shift to smaller “pickup” stores that don’t offer customers a place to sit (and transmit germs). About 95 percent of its U.S. stores are now open in some capacity. But the company said it expected sales for this quarter to be down by as much as $3.2 billion.
Portland, Maine’s Via Agency has been able to avoid pandemic layoffs so far, a fact CEO Leeann Leahy attributed to the shop’s underpinning philosophy. “The founder and the executive team feel a moral obligation to put people before revenue, and I don’t think all the holding companies have the luxury of having that consideration,” she told Ad Age’s Judann Pollack on the latest episode of the “Ad Lib” podcast. “That is the immeasurable benefit of being independent.”
Leahy, who went to the same Catholic college as Anthony Fauci, talks about how the agency is weathering the economic downturn with a diversified roster. She also weighs in on her history as an actor, the benefits of (sometimes brutally) honest feedback and the agency’s recent diversity efforts.
Words matter: A bit of racially biased tech nomenclature may be getting a revision. “Master” and “slave” are used to denote computers or circuits where one controls another, and some technologists are calling for industry to use better terminology without racial undertones. Techies are also reexamining the use of “blacklist” and “whitelist” and “black hat” and “white hat,” which associate blackness with banning or evil intent and whiteness with allowance and virtue.
Sea change: The coronavirus lockdown may have helped dampen global carbon emissions, but the seas could suffer from a glut of single-use masks and gloves that make their way from trash cans to drainpipes and into the ocean. Bottles of hand sanitizer are also finding their way into the water. Like any other plastic pollution, this new debris lingers for hundreds of years, breaking down into microplastics that end up in the food chain and posing deadly risks to sea life, like turtles and dolphins, that mistake them for food.
Take your licks: Time is a closed loop these days, so it might come as a surprise that summer is almost here. But the Museum of Ice Cream is ready to kick off a season of experiential eating—safely. “The museum has been offering digital ice cream classes during the lockdowns, and also created a ‘stay-home experience kit’ that includes brand partnerships with companies including Happy Socks,” writes Ad Age’s Adrianne Pasquarelli, who spoke to CEO Maryellis Bunn on the latest episode of the “Marketer’s Brief podcast.”
That does it for today’s Wake-Up Call. Thanks for reading and we hope you are all staying safe and well. For more industry news and insight, follow us on Twitter: @adage.
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