Vodafone Blocks Ads

Vodafone blocks ads in an attempt to protect their brand. This follows the controversy of advertisements appearing on sites that predominantly contain “hate speech” and/or “fake news”. The mobile operator is introducing a whitelist to prevent their ads from appearing on sites that may be damaging to their brand.

The Vodafone Whitelist

This new approach means Vodafone will move away from their previous “blacklist” and instead adopt a whitelist. It will use content controls designed by its agency partner WPP as well as Facebook and Google. With the aim of ensuring Vodafone’s ads only appear on selected sites identified as being highly unlikely to display harmful content.

Marketing Week spoke to Vodafone’s group director of corporate affairs, Mat Peacock, about why they are no longer relying on blacklists:

“Blacklists are quite good at ensuring ads don’t appear on porn sites and gambling sites because the sites are easy to identify through metadata.. The issue here is that hate speech and fake news are heard to identify algorithmically – you need human beings. That is the root of many of the issues”.

He went on to explain that it is unacceptable for ads to appear in “loathsome” places. Also, that the blacklist is not sufficient enough to guarantee ads will not appear next to undesired content.

What sites will be affected?

Vodafone defines outlets that may not make the whitelist as those that:

  • deliberately intend to degrade women or vulnerable minorities
  • present unreliable content as fact-based news that has new reliable source and is deemed to be misleading.

Sites such as YouTube will, therefore, be affected. However, instead of a complete ban on ads on YouTube, Vodafone will analyse each channel to see if it meets the required criteria for the whitelist.

vodafone blocks ads - youtube

The number of websites that fail the tests is said to be in the”hundreds of thousands”. Way more than people realise said Peacock. Picking and choosing where ads can appear may mean Vodafone misses out on future revenues. However, doing so allows a way of censoring/controlling their reputation among audiences.

In addition, Vodafone says the measures will be reviewed “regularly” to make sure the websites on the whitelist is “appropriate and neither too broad or too narrow”.

Vodafone blocks ads for Brand Safety

These policy reviews have come to light in the wake of growing concerns over brand safety. This includes the increasing presence of automated ad technologies which make it increasingly difficult to manage where ads are appearing.

The Times conducted an investigation earlier this year which revealed ads from McDonald’s and Marks & Spencer’s to appear next to objectionable content on sites such as YouTube.

This led hundreds of advertisers to remove YouTube ads until assurances could be made about where the ads would appear. Both Vodafone and Sky pulled their advertisements until the problems could be resolved.

Since introducing the whitelist, Vodafone has resumed advertising with Google under their own rules.

Is this the future of managing automated ads? Let us know what you think in the comments.


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