(20 August 2018)
I refer to your email to our CEO – he has referred the issue to me.
You refer to a programmatic advertising issue which is bigger than a single brand issue, it actually talks to the strength of journalism in SA today. We recently met with the Media 24 editor to discuss this issue where he raised his concerns around the issue of fake news and how advertisers should be more accountable. Our view at that meeting, fed back to them, was that the accountability sits with journalists & the media owners too.
A case in point is that a few weeks later Media 24 ran an article on Capitec, which they took from Bloomberg who took it from a fake news report. Granted that News24 was the quickest media group to react and remove the fake story, the fact still remains that the fake story got airtime.
Please see our short answers below:
1) The driving force behind misinformation/fake news websites such as these are monetising the traffic it generates, mainly through advertising revenue.
Your company is indirectly contributing towards this with the programmatic advertisements seen on the site.
Would you consider this statement a fair summary? If not, please indicate an alternative.
• I believe that this statement is a fair view on programmatic advertising however not a fair reflection on Capitec and/or our marketing strategy.
• Our digital media strategy is to serve users who we believe will benefit from our product offering; this unfortunately means serving them ads on sites that communicate misinformation
• Trialling new technologies like programmatic digital advertising means we are constantly learning and optimising
• We blacklist and update exclusions lists on a weekly basis however with the rate at which new sites are created it is something we as a collective (advertisers) need to resolve
2) Who is responsible for your company’s marketing strategy? Do you make use of in-house or external talent to identify and implement these strategies?
• A combination – we have an experienced and diligent marketing department who develop the strategy with external agencies who assist us in the implementation
3) What is the mandate of your company’s marketing strategists mentioned in 2) above in respect of advertising on blacklisted websites?
For example, how do you ensure that your brand is not associated with pornographic or illegal websites?
• We utilise various software for delivery of programmatic ads which are globally recognised which optimise and create lists as a “brand watch”
• Capitec & advertising partners also review websites on a monthly optimisation basis – however as said previously it is very hard to decipher which websites are not legitimate as we target based on users
4) Do you take similar precautions to ensure your brand is not associated with misinformation websites? If not, why not?
• See above
5) Were you aware that your advertisements were being published on websites propagating false stories as news?
Now that you are aware that your brand is advertising on misinformation websites, what steps do you intend taking to safeguard the integrity of your brand?
• We will need to step up our efforts at a greater scale; this is something that the marketing, advertising & media industries need to rally around and make a concerted effort against unknowingly supporting fake news.
(20 August 2018)
Further to my mail I just sent you can also see this as background on how we approach the issue:
Here’s a list of all the measures that PHD (our media agency) put into place to ensure that our ads are shown in a brand-safe environment:
The following are the content labels used for campaigns using tools such as Campaign Manager and Display & Video 360. These are deemed safe content areas.
• DL-G: Content suitable for general audiences.
• DL-PG: Content suitable for most audiences with parental guidance.
• DL-T: Content suitable for teen and older audiences.
• DL-MA: Content suitable only for mature audiences.
• Not yet labelled: Content that has not been labelled.
Sensitive Category Exclusions – PHD have a full list of sites and keywords (for both Programmatic and Search) which are updated on a monthly basis both locally and from their global parent company. These categories include:
• Download & Sharing
• Fake News
• Transportation Accidents
• Sensitive Social Issues
Note that Fake News is called out as an excluded category.
In addition 3rd party verification services are used to provide additional assistance:
• Integral Ad Science – this tool also ensures that ads aren’t shown in unsafe or inappropriate content
• Double Verify – authenticates the quality of digital media and is the industry-leading standard
• Adloox – AdLoox is yet another tool to ensure that ads aren’t shown in unsafe or inappropriate content
As can be seen we already take every precaution possible to ensure that our ads are shown in a brand-safe environment with a three levels of protection. However at the rate at which these fake news sites are created, it is difficult to catch them all. This is something that the industry is deliberately working hard against as it’s hard to ensure we always have them all blacklisted. Furthermore, Fake News Sites is semi-subjective and it’s sometimes difficult to ascertain if the site is indeed, fake news.
A recommendation which PHD made to journalists in the past would be to create a portal or list where journalists can flag any new Fake News Sites they come across so that agencies and companies can ensure not to indirectly support these sites. Ultimately, as I mentioned before, this is not an advertiser problem alone. Through joint effort, the problem can possibly be combated.
In closing, we have updated our list of prohibited sites with these two screenshots.