We’re heading into one of the most contentious elections in American history, which will drive unprecedented demand for news. From what I’m seeing, however, most advertisers are sitting on the sidelines for fear of getting swept up in the culture wars waging all around us—and not without reason.
Just this year, we’ve seen Target bullied into taking LGBTQ-friendly products off shelves, Anheuser Busch pulling a micro-marketing campaign with a trans influencer and Disney drawn into open warfare with a candidate for president of the United States.
If history is a guide, brands will attempt to weather the next two years like tortoises retreating into their shells—doubling down on policies that have starved the news business of advertising dollars. This has left Americans less informed, more easily made paranoid about government institutions intended to help them and more vulnerable to partisan misinformation than ever.
We’re living in a world waging war on truth. And the press—charged with uncovering and disseminating facts vital to democracy—is having its legs cut out from under it by a well-intentioned but ultimately misguided concept called “brand safety.”