Nearly half of coronavirus ads promote scams

Nearly half of coronavirus ads promote scams
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Dubious coronavirus creative, adult ads, and fiery political content stand out in new trend report “The Year in Sensitive Creative”

MCLEAN, VA. May 10, 2021—The Media Trust, global leader in quantifying and controlling digital risk, today published “The Year in Sensitive Creative,” an analysis of more than 1 million pieces of contentious ad content. The current moment of social, economic, and political strife has shown that consumers are more exposed than ever to offensive and harmful content in the form of ad creative. The Media Trust confirmed 47% of coronavirus-related ads are scams, with bad actors attempting to price-gouge on personal protective equipment and promote fraudulent treatments or vaccine information among other nefarious activities.

“The pandemic has also been a plague of misinformation and scams, and too many AdTech companies are complicit in the spread,” says Chris Olson, CEO of The Media Trust. “The wide range of offensive creative during this tumultuous period highlights that digital ad-buying platforms and exchanges have turned a blind eye to the sensitivities and overall well-being of consumers for too long. Best-in-class AdTech providers understand their responsibility to keep the digital media ecosystem safe for consumers, and prohibit the transmission of this unwanted content to their publisher clients.”

In addition to the deluge of fraudulent coronavirus creative, the first wave of the pandemic brought a flood of adult, alcohol, and other sensitive ad categories to programmatic marketplaces as premium brands paused their ad spend. The latter half of the analysis period saw a massive wave of inflammatory political ads before the US elections, as well as surges in creative promoting weapons and violence.

Other major findings from the report include:

  • Viewer discretion advised: Adult (nudity, sex toys, and adult services) and Provocative (sexually suggestive imagery and profanity) ads accounted for two-thirds of all sensitive creative.
  • Adult and Alcohol lead creative storm during first Covid wave: April 2020 saw 50% more contentious ads than the monthly average, with major spikes in Adult and Alcohol ads accounting for 44% and 17.5% of ads respectively.
  • Suggestive creative surged during holidays: An influx of evocative holiday content in November 2020 prompted a 3.4X month-over-month increase in Provocative ads, which accounted for 57% of all creatives flagged.
  • Adult ads tumble over year: An 85% decline between August 2020 and Feb. 2021 implies effectiveness of categorization for removal of brand-tarnishing content.
  • Political explodes in October: Political ads made up 37% of October’s sensitive ad pool, growing 6.7X from August 2020.
  • Weapons and Violence surge: Ads in these two categories rose an alarming 4X between September 2020 and February 2021.

Top-tier ad technology platforms, including popular demand-side platforms (DSPs) and supply-side platforms (SSPs), leverage human-AI hybrid Ad Categorization to ensure compliance with the creative policies of downstream partners and also protect consumers from objectionable ads. Especially as social unrest, economic strife, and political turmoil increased over the last year, premium publishers are seeking ad tech partners that can shield them from offensive creative that damages user experience.

“Ad Categorization from The Media Trust supports more than 30 of the most sensitive creative categories for publishers,” explains Cory Schnurr, Head of Marketplace Innovation at The Media Trust. “Over the past two years we’ve worked extensively with premium AdTech partners to help them shape the most appropriate policies, alert them to violations, and correct creative errors with buyers. But most important, we’ve helped them ensure better, safer ad experiences for consumers.”

Download the full report: The Year in Sensitive Creative

About The Media Trust

The Media Trust is on a mission to make the internet a healthier, more valuable place for publishers and consumers. Working with the world’s largest, most-heavily trafficked digital properties and their upstream partners, The Media Trust delivers real-time security, data privacy, performance management and quality assurance solutions which help protect, monetize and optimize the user experience across desktop, smartphone, tablet and gaming devices. More than 600 enterprises, media publishers, ad networks/exchanges, and agencies—including 40 of comScore’s AdFocus Top 50 websites—rely on The Media Trust to protect their website, their employee internet use, their revenue and, most importantly, their brand.

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