5 tips for advertisers: Climate change x keyword blocking

Posted on: Tuesday 19 October 2021 | IAB UK

Keyword blocking around climate change is on the rise, so we've put together advice on how brands can develop a nuanced and proportionate approach to brand safety and suitability

With COP26 currently making headlines, climate change is increasingly dominating the news agenda and further highlighting the value of quality news sources. However, as we saw with COVID-19, some advertisers are cautious about appearing alongside climate change-related content on the basis that it could create negative connotations for their brand. 

While this issue isn’t yet as pervasive as we saw at the start of the pandemic, several publishers have seen a rise in blocking of terms relating to climate change, i.e. ‘environmental’ and ‘clean air’. Not only does this strategy unnecessarily limit advertisers’ reach, it also could have vast unintended consequences for the funding of journalism around this vital issue. 

To help, we have put together some tips on how to create a nuanced and proportionate approach to brand safety and suitability, while continuing to support the production of quality news.

  • It’s essential that news publishers can monetise content relating to climate change and people want journalists to focus more on climate stories to help inform and educate them, while consumers are expecting brands to address climate change. To ensure that you are positively supporting content relating to climate change, speak to your brand team/agency and enable advertising against relevant content. Practical steps to take include:

    Talk with your verification provider to understand which categories climate change content may appear within and consider making trusted news publishers exempt from these. Where available, consider utilising the GARM Brand Safety and Suitability Framework which allows for news monetisation.

    Review your existing keyword blocklists to ensure that you are not including core terms relating to climate change. Some of the most common keywords related to climate change that you should avoid blocking where possible are: Extinct, arctic, weather, renewables, clean air, pollution, environmental, endangered habitats, conservationists and climate change. 

    Review the data available to you from verification providers to understand where your brand is and is not appearing. If block rates are high, investigate what is driving this and make changes accordingly.

    You can use content verification technologies to understand the sentiment and tone of content. Consider using such technologies to positively target climate change content that would be safe for your brand.
  • Consider setting up direct relationships with news publishers. Publishers control the content they monetise, so speaking to your partners directly will help you to understand the approach they are taking.
  • The spotlight is on climate change at the moment due to COP26, but coverage relating to the climate crisis isn’t going anywhere. It’s crucial that you are reviewing your brand safety strategy and keyword blocklists frequently to ensure that you are keeping pace with the news agenda as it changes and evolves.
  • Importantly, ensure your internal teams are informed of your decision to support quality news and trusted content and that the PR team are prepared for questions that may arise e.g. “we are advertising around this content on trusted news sites in order to support the content they are producing on this critical subject”.
  • Lastly, don’t underestimate your influence. Share the message on your social channels and raise awareness among your consumers. Not only will this let them know what you are doing to support quality news, it will encourage your peers across the industry to do the same.

For more advice, take a look at our Content Verification Guide here.

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