Vodafone has revealed plans to block its advertising from appearing on fake news websites or sites that feature hate speech, saying it will no longer "tolerate our brand being associated with this kind of abusive and damaging content."
The telecoms giant – which has an estimated at spend of £750m, £400m of which goes on digital – described it as a “whitelist based approach” on a global scale which will be led by WPP through its media agency MEC and by working closely with Google and Facebook.
Specifically, the rules in place will help it avoid websites that intend to degrade women or vulnerable minorities or websites that present as fact-based news to deliberately mislead readers.
It said these controls will ensure that Vodafone ads are only served within selected outlets "identified as highly unlikely to be focused on harmful content."
“Hate speech and fake news threaten to undermine the principles of respect and trust that bind communities together,” explained Vodafone group chief Vittorio Colao.
“Vodafone has a strong commitment to diversity and inclusion; we also greatly value the integrity of the democratic processes and institutions that are often the targets of purveyors of fake news. We will not tolerate our brand being associated with this kind of abusive and damaging content.”
That Vodafone’s chief executive has revealed the new advertising restrictions signals how seriously it is taking the problems it’s coming up against in the digital advertising ecosystem.
The top marketer at fellow advertising behemoth Procter & Gamble commenced the year with a rallying cry for clients to no longer accept what they were getting back from a “murky at best, fraudulent at worst” media supply chain.
Meanwhile, an investigation by The Times investigation found that several household name brands were inadvertently funding extremism by serving ads next to content from terrorists and neo-nazi groups on Google-owned platforms, namely YouTube.
As a consequence, a number of advertisers, including M&S, Channel 4 and L'Oreal, decided to temporarily halt their ad spend with Google until they could be assured processes were in place to prevent their brands appearing on 'unsafe' sites.
Vodafone added that advertisers today are "risk[ing] their brands being marketed within outlets that are fundamentally at odds with their values and beliefs as a company while inadvertently providing a source of funding for those outlets."