UM, Amobee gear up to fight COVID misinformation

Sites with excess inventory are being encouraged to use it for a campaign focused on facts.

Canadians depend on the news now more than ever. Between radio, television and digital media, consumers have put their trust behind Canadian outlets.

But trust, particularly when it comes to the veracity of news, has been a primary concern for digital advertisers over the years. Few brands are eager to associate themselves with anything that can seem extremist, false or negative. And with the constantly changing and sometimes frightening nature of the COVID-19 news, pairing against news that is trustworthy isn’t a concern for many advertisers (especially those that are tightening budgets).

IPG Mediabrands shop UM Canada joined forces with ad platform Amobee to empower Canadian publishers and help prevent the spread of misinformation during the pandemic.

UM brought together partners and media vendors, asking them to donate spare ad inventory that can be leveraged to share relevant information related to the pandemic. The campaign creative, executed by Amobee, links directly to the WHO’s dedicated COVID-19 website.

Bell Media, Corus Entertainment, District M, Evolve Media and Postmedia are the Canadian companies currently taking part.

Cory Peters, senior director of digital strategy and partnerships at UM, explains to MiC: “Right now, consumers are seeing display messaging being delivered through a variety of our partners. We’ll roll out new creative versions as they become available, while also opening up to different ad formats,” he says.

As more media partners become interested, he says, the program will likely evolve to include a wider variety of formats.

Misinformation has always been a thorn in the side of the ad buying industry, but Peters says COVID-19 has exacerbated the issue. “From a brand perspective, the publishing stream requires constant tweaking to minimize exposure in less favourable environments – an influx of speculative or opinion-based content is a growing safety risk that leads bigger brands to shift their investment strategies and ultimately opens the door to misinformation.”

In fact, a number of advertisers have pulled or paused their programmatic spend, or specifically blacklisted the term COVID-19, in order to avoid pairing with either unsavoury or untrue information. Some agencies, such as Mindshare, have tried to pull advertisers toward programmatic and not necessarily blacklisting, but avoiding certain sub-topics within the COVID-19 subjects.

But in the meantime, publishers have still been left with excess inventory, and UM is urging publishers to take advantage of the program. “The goal is to not only ensure Canadians are informed about where to get trusted information, but to actually shut out operators looking to capitalize on Canadians seeking COVID-19 information and solutions without having the product or background credentials to back up their claims.”

In terms of timelines, UM is looking at the initiative as an ongoing process and sustaining its efforts accordingly. The hope, says Peters, is that there’s an increasing flow of participants in order to keep up the fight against misinformation for as long as it’s necessary.