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Coronavirus Media

IAB urges advertisers in Australia to stop keyword blocking of coronavirus topics


By Shawn Lim, Reporter, Asia Pacific

April 3, 2020 | 4 min read

IAB Australia has urged agencies, ad verification firms and other ad tech platforms in the industry to stop keyword blocking of topics including 'crisis', 'Covid-19' and 'coronavirus' in news during the coronavirus (Covid-19) pandemic.


Journalists working for credible news organisations need to be financially supported through advertising.

The industry body noted many brand and agency teams have mistakenly updated their programmatic and all other media buying to prevent any advertising around Covid-19 topics.

The IAB has also encouraged brands that may currently be reviewing their creative and messaging before relaunching their advertising campaigns to consider their policy around which environments they support, to ensure they do not inadvertently block premium content sites.

It pointed out that the production of accurate helpful and accessible information by journalists working for credible news organisations need to be financially supported through advertising.

In addition, news organisations are investing heavily to keep the public informed, the word 'coronavirus' and 'Covid' are fast accelerating up advertiser blocklists, leaving news inventory redundant of much-needed ad revenue.

“Credible news and media organisations are seeing huge jumps in online traffic, but many brands are blocking advertising from appearing near content mentioning coronavirus. It’s essential that brands support news and journalism because with this content now so ubiquitous, without advertising support it will be simply unworkable and unsustainable for the production of news content,” said Gai Le Roy, the chief executive of IAB Australia.

“Brands and agencies have the ability to decide for themselves the news organisations they deem legitimate and critical to the Australian public and economy. For those brands able to advertise at the moment, having advertising messages in these trusted environments with engaged audiences is an important investment.”

Tereza Alexandratos, the director of commercialisation and delivery at The Guardian Australia added: “At this troubling time, delivery of high quality and broad-reaching news service is imperative. The coronavirus is one of the most important stories of the decade - advertisers must be brave enough to have their messaging appear next to the stories that Australians are reading. This approach offers the most effective advertising for brands, and for Guardian Australia, we need advertisers to support more than ever to ensure our survival and continue reporting on this health crisis.”

In the UK, Newsworks, the body representing British newspaper publishers, is estimating that over-zealous digital brand safety measures around the keyword ‘coronavirus’ is going to cost the industry £50m in lost advertising revenue in the next three months at a time when its coverage is arguably needed most.

Outside of the coronavirus, LGBT+ titles have also been hit hard by keyword blocking in particular, many of the topics on their agenda by their very nature spark the defences of the blocklists.

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