It's time for climate keyword blocking action, here's why...

Posted on Monday 22 November 2021 | Jon Mew, CEO, IAB UK & Jo Allan, CEO, Newsworks

Jon Mew, IAB UK’s CEO and Jo Allan, Newsworks’ CEO, make a joint appeal for advertisers to review their keyword strategies and support climate change coverage. This piece was first published by Campaign in October 2021

With climate change increasingly, and rightly, dominating the news agenda, Newsworks and IAB UK are today making a joint appeal to advertisers to check they’re not unwittingly defunding trusted journalism.

Since the beginning of the year, several publishers have seen climate wording and phrases – including "climate change", "environmental" and "clean air" – make their way onto keyword blocklists. This means online articles containing these words, wouldn't be able to run advertising alongside them.

The issue is not yet as immediately pervasive as the Covid-19 keyword blocklisting we saw in 2020, but this is a good time to reflect on the unintended consequences of keyword blocking before it goes on to have a larger and longer impact on the funding of journalism. And, at a time when the trusted flow of information around climate change is going to be needed more than ever, it's crucial that our industry is actively supporting the production of quality content on this critical subject.

What's more, it's not just us that thinks this. Recent research by One Poll for Newsworks shows that readers want journalists to focus more, not less, on climate stories to help inform and educate them. The same happened at the onset of the coronavirus pandemic as readership soared across news brands as millions of people sought out the information they needed, from news sources that they knew they could trust.

While brand safety is understandably, and rightly, paramount for advertisers – especially in the fight against misinformation – a nuanced application of the tools available is essential to prevent overzealous blocking and ensure advertising is being seen in environments where large and highly engaged audiences are consuming quality journalism.

That is why Newsworks and IAB UK have teamed up to remind advertisers and agencies of the simple, practical steps they can take to avoid the pitfalls of blocking trusted editorial climate content (see the tips at the end of this article).

"Climate change is the greatest risk facing us all," the headline on the COP26 website reads. With that stark sentiment in mind, it really is incumbent on us all to work together to help overcome and solve this emergency.

So, our joint appeal is very simple - please follow the IAB's tips below, check your blocklists and please back trusted journalism at this most critical time for the planet.

Top tips for advertisers: climate change and keyword blocking

  • Get your brand team, agency and content verification provider to review your current keyword blocklist to ensure you're not including core terms relating to climate change, such as "weather" and "environmental", AND review these frequently as the news agenda evolves.
  • Ask whether your content verification technologies can identify the sentiment and tone of content, enabling you to positively target brand-safe climate change content.
  • Consider making trusted news publishers exempt from keyword blocklists.
  • Ensure your internal teams are informed that you are supporting quality, trusted content, and prepared to answer any questions about your content verification strategy.
  • Share the message to raise awareness among industry peers – and encourage others to follow suit.

Written by

Jon Mew, CEO, IAB UK & Jo Allan, CEO, Newsworks


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