How brands fund disinformation with their ad dollars

Chris Pash
By Chris Pash | 24 May 2022
Credit: Adrian Trinkaus via Unsplash

Brands fund misinformation and disinformation with their ad dollars, whether they know it or not.

Analysts at global consultancy Forrester say the monetisation of misinformation and disinformation content is a vicious cycle.

NewsGuard and Comscore found that top brands spent $2.6 billion on news sites spreading misinformation via programmatic media.

“Big brands with sizable media budgets and best-in-class media agencies are funding an industry that intensifies societal and geopolitical conflict and risks undermining democracy,” says Forrester in a report, Funding Truth In The Misinformation Age

Forrester’s CMO Pulse Survey 2022 indicates that brands as inadvertently appear on sites with misinformation or adjacent to content that has misinformation.

Most consumers think that when they see an ad on a website, it’s supposed to be there.

But brands and their media agencies don’t know where all of their ads are being placed.

The Bureau of Investigative Journalism found that Amazon ads appeared on more than 30 sites containing misinformation.

Forerster says traditional brand safety measures give marketers a false sense of security.

“Brand safety vendors are good at identifying baseline safety standards (such as violence or pornography), but not misinformation and disinformation,” say the analysts at Forrester.

“This particular category of content is harder to detect with automation because it’s designed to look and sound credible, leading to the emergence of new brand safety solutions, such as NewsGuard and The Global Disinformation Index (GDI).”

Forerster says marketers can no longer afford to procrastinate on addressing the systemic misinformation problem.

“Start by making changes to your marketing strategy and brand safety measures to deliver a media strategy that is mindful — proactive, values-based, and innovative.”

Almost three quarters (73%) of B2C marketers from Forrester’s Marketing CMO Pulse Survey, 2022, say that they actively manage their media plans to avoid misinformation sites as part of their brand safety and suitability strategy.

However, 78% trust that social media platforms are implementing measures to ensure that their ad is not showing up adjacent to misinformation.

“To dismantle misinformation and disinformation, stop relying on other platforms and parties to keep you protected,” says Forrester.

“Take matters into your own hands and start implementing brand safety measures, such as prebid requirements and informed inclusion/exclusion lists.”

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