The Drum Awards Festival - Official Deadline

-d -h -min -sec

BBC Future of Media IPA

Future of Media: Going carbon neutral, print's huge Covid brief, is news brand safe?


By John McCarthy, Opinion Editor

January 21, 2021 | 8 min read

This is an extract from The Drum’s Future of Media briefing. You can subscribe to it here if you’d like it your inbox once a week.

Future of Media: Daily Mail charm offensive, Inside Dugout and TikTok threat

Future of Media: Going carbon neutral, print's huge Covid brief, is news brand safe?

John McCarthy here with your third Future of Media briefing of 2021. Gone but not forgotten is Trump and the shadow of 2020. Optimism lingers – for now.

For us media peeps, ad spend is the lifeblood, and we want to see it return. The tone of this briefing will reflect that journey in the coming months.

Fingers crossed.

IPA assures ‘bleak’ picture will brighten

The UK remains in lockdown. Many ad spend recovery plans banked on that not being the case. So, 2021, is off to a smothered start. But the Institute of Practitioners in Advertising's (IPA) latest Bellwether report hints at optimism ahead for the "second half of 2021". I'm old enough to remember when there was optimism for the second half of 2020.

Read our deep-dive here to find the hardest hit spenders – and the route of recovery.

Carbon conscious media

Trends editor Rebecca Stewart explored the rise of carbon neutral media.

She says: "Each time you conduct a Google search, or send an email, the transmission of that data pollutes the planet just a tiny amount."

Another thing to feel guilty about right? Wrong. More of our favoured media is considering this footprint.

The BBC claims to be the first major publisher to calculate its carbon emissions. Travel is a huge contributor to this pollution output, and we've not seen a lot of that. But it's good the industry is now tracking it.

For ethical living magazine Pebble, the goal is to not print flyers, or use single-use plastic, and powering itself using recycled materials and energy. Kudos to anyone prioritising the environment during a pandemic.

Learn about this trend here.

Inside the newspaper industry's biggest-ever brief

Last year, the UK newspaper industry collaborated in a huge government Covid-19 brief.

If you know the industry, you know it's a miracle that these players worked together. But love is more powerful than hate, right? And cash-strapped publishers love ad revenue.

Jokes aside, the government was the UK's biggest ad spender in 2020, according to Nielsen. So Newsworks got the titles around the table to form Team Nation. The media was put to work getting the vital public health message out into the world.

Emma Callaghan, sales and invention director at Reach Solutions, gave me the inside look at how it hit 50 government briefs during a pandemic while working remotely.

Going forward, Callaghan wants brands to think about how they can benefit from this media alliance to penetrate the public consciousness at a national, regional and local level.

Read it here.

Brand safety in news

New articles about Covid and race and LGBT+ issues were demonetized in 2020 due to clumsy brand safety measures. Regular readers of this column will be aware of that.

But research from Reach tested whether running ads against negative news stories really left a bad impression on said brand. In quality environments with editorial rigour, the answer was that there was a negligible rub-off. Or more accurately, it was off-set by the connotations of "quality, trustworthiness and reliability" from supporting journalism.

Think about it, if a bank's ad appears next to a sad Covid story, we're not suddenly blaming the financial institute. We don't shoot the messenger, in fact, more often than not, we don't even notice the brand anyway. Its concern should be on staying away from stories about itself – or those that allude to its naughty behaviour, say in this case, a story about tax avoidance or a post-Brexit jobs exodus.

The experiment had a control element. These results weren't replicated on a low-quality dummy site. Brands had a tougher ride on the dodgy blog. Reputation, legacy, and trust, matter. Apparently.

In The Drum newszoom (I made that term up just there), we had a clash about this research. The findings are clearly self-serving from Reach – it wants more ad spend, naturally – but that motive doesn't erode the findings.

I'd be keen to know what you think of the report. I think marketers need to think differently about news content when it comes to brand safety when compared to the content trough that is the internet. And this starts a very interesting conversation.

Read it here.

Other stuff

Well, that’s this week’s round-up. If you missed the last one, read it here.

I'm always looking to improve this briefing. Get in touch and let me know what you'd like to see more of, or if you'd like to feature. I'm at or @johngeemccarthy on Twitter.

BBC Future of Media IPA

More from BBC

View all


Industry insights

View all
Add your own content +