Do you fund bullies?

Hunt of Vénéssa

Venessa Hunt is the Managing Director of ThinkPremiumDigital.

We’ve long talked about brand safety and ad fraud as legitimate issues for Australian brands investing in digital media. But there is a bigger concern that needs to be addressed; one we don’t seem to be talking about and it’s about time we did.

Australian brands’ love affair with digital advertising shows little sign of slowing down with IAB and PwC’s online advertising spend report revealing digital advertising spending to hit $ 9.5 billion. dollars in 2020. Of this amount, $ 2.9 billion was spent in the fourth quarter, an increase of 20.3% over same quarter in 2019.

It is now well established that digital advertising is not without its challenges, with genuine concerns about ad fraud and brand safety plaguing the channel.

While it’s important for advertisers to get what they pay for and not risk damaging their brand, these concerns pale in comparison to a larger issue in the digital ecosystem: in fact, there is parts of the Internet that are increasingly dangerous for everyone.

Not all digital is bad. But there are corners of the online world that are causing serious damage.

Speaking during budget estimates earlier this month, Online Safety Commissioner Julie Inman-Grant shared a number of shocking statistics.

In 2020, reports of illegal and harmful online content reached a new high with more than 21,000 reports made. And, alarmingly, the trend continues into 2021. In the first four months of the year, reports were 53% ahead of the same period last year. Two-thirds of these reports concern child pornography.

As horrible as it is, this is only the tip of the iceberg.

Reports of cyberbullying among youth also increased by 34% in the first quarter of 2021. Complaints of cyberbullying among adults have now overtaken cyberbullying. In the first quarter of the year, these reports doubled. And 70% of all reports to the Online Safety Commissioner are initiated by women and girls.

There are several reasons why you should be concerned about this. The first and most obvious is that you could one day fall victim to it. Otherwise you, someone you know and love.

What is harder for us to deal with is that our industry’s work could blatantly or inadvertently fund the terrifying digital attack brought on by some bad actors in space. After all, it’s widely believed that if content isn’t behind a pay wall, it’s ad-supported.

A lot of online content is essential for a functioning and happy society, such as information, news, health and safety, entertainment and sport. Some of them, however, are downright harmful and even worse, we know that.

Studies show some platforms increase self-harm rates, suicide and body image problems. Yet we still spend our advertising dollars there.

In his statement, Inman-Grant revealed that the large-scale attacks in which fake social accounts were created and used are of particular concern. In one troubling case, an online assault lasted for several months and saw over 60 different fake social accounts used. As soon as the fake profiles were deleted, new ones appeared and the abuse continued.

Of course, none of this would have been possible if the advertising industry hadn’t helped fund these areas of harm.

Now more than ever, as an industry, we need to honestly discuss our responsibility to Australians – especially our future generations – to review our spending with the places where these online violations occur, or, at a minimum, ask for more to be done to stop it.

With targeted marketing in the spotlight, agencies and advertisers need to think about the sustainability of their ad spend and its current and future impact.

It’s time we asked ourselves what our advertising dollars are actually funding.

Know where your money is going. Support platforms that genuinely care about the health and safety of their users and adhere to regulatory and social responsibilities.

Let’s start the conversation

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About Daniel Lange

Daniel Lange

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