The impact of global warming on daily life is growing increasingly pronounced, as Americans navigate everything from extreme weather and natural disasters to droughts and forest fires.
With the specter of climate change intensifying, media organizations, brands, and marketers have started dedicating themselves to promoting solution-based content that raises awareness about the dangers of climate change.
However, as more information and data emerges to inform the acceleration of global warming change and its subsequent impacts, so too does a barrage of misinformation and potentially harmful and misleading content.
For brand marketers, avoiding climate change denialism has become as commonplace as dodging the landmines of extremist political content during the presidential election or false COVID-19 treatments. Now, more than ever, ensuring a comprehensive brand safety strategy is vital to companies looking to advertise responsibly.
And while platforms like Google recently rolled out policies that limit the ability to monetize harmful content on platforms like YouTube, marketers must stay vigilant — and use all the tools at their disposal — to keep brands safe.
Here's how to avoid getting caught in the maelstrom of misinformation.
Know your client's values and advertise accordingly
According to Jackie Swansburg Paulino, chief brand officer at Pixability, brands need to have a firm grasp of their principles and how they want to communicate them — whether that means intention to make statements on hot button issues like climate change or avoid them altogether.
“One thing I always say to agencies and brands is make sure that they have really crystal clear brand values and expectations when it comes to making sure that their ads run in the right place,” Swansburg Paulino said.
Today, many brands are increasingly interested in working with major publishers like BBC and Bloomberg to align with solution-oriented climate change content. Neal Thurman, co-founder of the Brand Safety Institute, said that if approached strategically, a savvy media buying plan can be instrumental in driving a company's message home and boosting the bottom line.
“As brands spend more time reflecting on who they are and what they want to be, and consumers pay attention to the actions of marketers based on things like their media buys, then topics like climate change will become more important,” he said.
However, while the proliferation of digital media platforms has created more opportunities for brand marketers than ever before, Thurman cautioned that it's also made them more susceptible to brand safety crises.
“It was a very inside baseball sort of thing when we launched it,” Thurman said of his organization, which was founded in 2018 in response to a growing trend of brands mired in brand safety related controversies. “And now, the issues that we're dealing with are ones that are on the front pages and everybody's concern.”
The 'one-two punch' of advanced technology and seasoned human experts
Advanced technology is proving invaluable to preventing adjacency to harmful content like climate change information. In recent years, artificial intelligence tools have made it easier for brands and marketers to effectively scan for misinformation across images, audio, and video. GumGum's industry-leading contextual intelligence solution, VerityTM, recently identified almost 1.2 million unique pages containing climate change-related keywords across GumGum's publisher network. Of those pages, the system's threat detection models classified 58.5% as ‘Safe'.
But sometimes technology alone won't cut it, according to Joel Cox, co-founder of Strategus, who believes a manual human gut check is often essential.
“As much as we've got these automated processes, we still need a set of human eyes to review every single app on which we are attempting to place impressions to ensure that that is what we would describe as a ‘brand safe environment,'” he said.
Cox — who primarily works with marketers advertising on streaming services like Hulu, Pluto, and Crackle — said that while his clients typically have the benefit of having less risk than advertisers on user-generated platforms, marketers need to use every resource possible to ensure brand safety.
“It really becomes this one-two punch, starting with automation protection and then benefiting from a team of seasoned experts to make reviews on a regular basis,” he said. “This ensures that any app that has entered the ecosystem or may appear to be any sort of fringe misinformation-type provider is immediately blocked.”