Consumers Take Power From Brands, Publishers

Consumer empowerment has been a huge topic in both Europe and the United States this week. In London there was a big brouhaha about YouTube showing ads against racist sites and large advertisers pulling their ads. As it turns out, this was a massive exaggeration.

Following a Times of London report that YouTube was showing ads against racist videos, headlines would have you believe ad spend was about to fall dramatically on the Google-owned platform. But the bark seems to be more an attempt by brands and publishers to gain leverage of any kind against the ad giant, as advertisers suddenly began demanding discounts from Google, despite the fact that ads have run next to extreme content on YouTube for years.

So perhaps the brand safety aspects of advertising have been somewhat exaggerated in the EU and UK,  used mainly as bargaining points. But in the US things took a more serious turn when most national advertisers pulled out of the Bill O’Reilly show after allegations of sexual harassment payoffs surfaced last week.

Indeed,  so many advertisers pulled out that the show was 15 minutes shorter, and O’Reilly was unceremoniously cut off the air. This was the doing of the consumer  empowerment organization Sleeping Giants, which has already caused ads to be removed from other sites with content that is not brand safe for women.

While none of this means there will be an immediate end to the problems in the advertising industry supply chain, it is at least an indication that advertisers, who after all pay the bills, have come to realize that they have power over blind buying technologies. They can simply declare the preferences for their brands and platforms and publishers will have to accede. It has long been said that no one was incentivized to clean the advertismg supply chain, but that is no longer true. Consumers have voted.

Some 25 years after the original Cluetrain Manifesto declared that markets were conversations and consumers were in charge, the consumers seem to be rising to the occasion and bringing the brands along with them. The platforms and data suppliers will have to fall in line.

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