48% Of Consumers Abandon Brands That Locate Ads Near Offensive Content

Brands and retailers beware: if your advertisement appears on a “fake news” or “inappropriate” web site, your customers will notice and judge you for it. A new survey from the CMO Council revealed that 48% of consumers said they would abandon brands they love if their ad runs alongside objectionable online content.

The study surveyed 2,000 adult consumers in North America and the UK and asked participants their feelings about ads located near objectionable content or on fake news sites. The study found that:

  • Two-thirds of respondents said they would hold a dimmer view of brands that provided negative advertising experiences; 
  • 63% of respondents respond more positively to ads run in trusted media channels; and
  • 37% said placement of ads on objectionable content or fake news sites would change the way they feel about a brand.

“CMOs and brand advertisers are increasingly concerned about various aspects of digital and programmatic advertising, including concerns about their ads showing up next to offensive content,” said Donovan Neale-May, Executive Director of the CMO Council in a statement. “This consumer survey demonstrates that those concerns are well founded. Advertising placed next to objectionable content is damaging to a brand while ads that accompany more trusted content and media are more accepted.”


The survey also found that:

  • 86% of respondents are either extremely concerned, very concerned or moderately worried about how easily they are directed or redirected to hateful or offensive content;
  • Annoying digital advertising formats include intrusive pop-up ads (22%) and auto-playing video ads (17%);
  • Only 14% of respondents always engage with digital ads, while 58% said they pay attention only when the ads are of interest to them; and
  • More than 40% of respondents said they have ad-blocking software installed on their devices. 

Ask Uncomfortable Questions To Get To The Bottom Of Ad Placements

Today’s consumers have a heightened awareness of unpleasant advertising and marketers must be aware of their sensitivities in order to maintain trust.  Marketers also can avoid these situations, but they need to put themselves in potentially awkward conversations with their media partners, ad agency partners, vendors and any other people involved in the customer experience ecosystem, according to Liz Miller, Senior VP of Marketing at the CMO Council.

“Marketers need to be asking those hard and potentially uncomfortable questions to mandate a conversation,” she said in an interview with Retail TouchPoints. “It’s unfair to say the agency isn’t paying attention.

“We need to ask, ‘Have we done an audit of the ad exchange in placing the ad? Have we put limits on where the exchange can place our ads?’ Marketers also need to question whether or not it makes sense to invest in this type of open exchange that may not have any limits. Does your really need to be associating with these media outlets/channels that don’t have similar view points or beliefs as you do?”

Miller said that Soul Cycle is a great example of this. She once spoke to the company’s Head of Brand about a speaking opportunity at one of the CMO Council’s events. Before agreeing, the Head of Brand asked who the other speakers would be because “It’s really important for us as a brand to associate with brands who think like us.”

“Marketers must think the same way when it comes to social media, brand partnerships, and who they are associating with because that reflects on the brand,” said Miller. “That becomes a conversation and mindset we all have to have because the reality is and it’s very clear from this research — our customers definitely have it.” 

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