Pinterest warns brands that online slime is 'draining' their ad dollars

Pinterest is making a play for the “brand safety” crowd, highlighting the relatively lighter atmosphere on its site compared to social rivals like Facebook and Twitter. On Wednesday, Pinterest took aim at those competitors and announced it was joining the Global Alliance for Responsible Media, a group that spun out of the World Federation of Advertisers to establish industry guidelines to monitor charged issues like hate speech on social media.

Pinterest made its announcement about joining GARM’s brand safety framework, which was recently updated, as part of its participation in this week’s ANA Masters conference. At the marketing confab, held virtually this year, Pinterest emphasized its reputation as a platform where people mostly share style tips, home design inspirations, recipes and travel recommendations, as opposed to other sites where subjects like politics have a corrosive effect.

“Negative online spaces are in fact draining your advertising dollars and hurting your brand,” Jon Kaplan, Pinterest’s chief revenue officer, told marketing execs tuning in to Wednesday’s ANA livestream. “Showing up in safe positive spaces is no longer a moralistic argument. People are tired of the toxicity, tired of the bullying and negativity. It’s not healthy and it can have real effects on your brands and your business. Our view is that it pays to be positive.”

Pam Forbus, chief marketing officer at Pernod Ricard North America, joined Kaplan in the ANA Masters conversation on Wednesday. Pernod Ricard is one of the brands pushing for more solutions to tackle hate speech online, and introduced a new initiative on Tuesday. Pernod Ricard proposed that brands track their “hate footprint” like they would measure their environmental impact. Pernod Ricard’s plan, which is still a little unfinished, has the backing of GARM.

Last month, Facebook, Twitter and Google, which owns YouTube, also endorsed GARM’s program, which offered a new consensus on what constitutes offensive content; it defined hate speech, and provided a way for platforms to report to brands the progress they make on taking down undesirable material.

Pinterest is now wading into this topic of positivity and brand safety, which has only become a more pressing concern as the 2020 U.S. election nears. Platforms like Pinterest and Snapchat are taking this moment to stress how they provide calmer waters, giving brands a refuge from disinformation and election coverage.

On Tuesday, Snapchat showed the power of that position by reporting that ad sales surged in the third quarter, up 52 percent year over year to $679 million. That period covered July, which was when Facebook was fending off an advertiser revolt in a pressure campaign to force the social network to adopt stronger policies against hate speech and disinformation.

The campaign called Stop Hate for Profit prompted Facebook to work more closely with GARM and commit to new practices that would give brands more control and transparency around the types of content they show up next to on Facebook. Twitter, YouTube, Reddit, Snapchat and TikTok have also been working with the industry to address marketers’ concerns about issues like “adjacency,” which is when ads appear above, below, next to and within online posts that might not be compatible with a brand’s image.

Pinterest has not been immune to disinformation and conspiracy mongering, the kind that also finds a home on other sites. Since the COVID-19 pandemic hit, Pinterest has had to crack down on posts that promote bad medical advice, and it also has had to fight off groups like QAnon, which has used all platforms to spin troubling, unsubstantiated conspiracies.

On Wednesday, Pinterest execs made the case that cleaning up social media is not just healthy for the civic discourse. Pinterest says positive environments mean better results for ad campaigns. Pinterest pointed to recent research it conducted that found there is a “negativity tax” brands pay when they show up in harmful environs. Pinterest is promoting the fact that it does not feature political ads, which it claims harm marketers competing for ad space on other sites.

“Adjacency matters more than ever in advertising,” said Meredith Guerriero, head of partnerships at Pinterest. “Of thousands of consumers surveyed, the majority said they assume an implied endorsement when they see brands appear alongside harmful content. That means you need more tools not only to control where you will show up and understand where you did.”

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