Case Study Proves Brands Can Now Avoid Advertising on Misinformation Sites, Restore Support to Quality News Publishers—and Achieve Greater Efficiency with Both Lower Costs and Higher Click-Throughs

NewsGuard partnered with IPG Mediabrands and a top advertiser to test a new solution; the result: Improved economics and real brand safety, while supporting legitimate news

(May 17, 2021—New York) NewsGuard today reported the results of a study conducted with IPG Mediabrands and a top brand advertiser to test a new solution to the growing problem of using traditional ad tech brand safety solutions: NewsGuard’s journalist-curated news source credibility ratings dataset expanded the brand’s “Allow List” for its advertising, including previously excluded news sources with high NewsGuard trust scores. The result was that the advertisers benefited from a greatly expanded list of news sites for its advertising, which performed so well that the average cost of the campaign fell and the click-through rate increased.

Based on NewsGuard’s data, the brand removed numerous unreliable sites from its allow list and added more than one thousand new, highly trusted local and national news sources. The solution led to substantial improvements in key performance indicators for the brand’s campaign: Expanded reach, lower advertising costs (CPMs), increased efficiency of ad spend, and higher click-through rates. In the process, IPG Mediabrands and the brand also fulfilled their goal of supporting legitimate journalism.

The highly trustworthy news sources that were added performed better, on average, than the typical site on the allow list. Effective CPMs were 9% lower for the NewsGuard-approved news sites, while click-through rates were 123% higher.

“This is evidence that marketers can embrace media responsibility, the same way they have approached corporate responsibility, while driving better performance and results from their media investment,” said Joshua Lowcock, Global Brand Safety Officer of IPG Mediabrands. “It is now clear that it makes good business sense for brands to support journalism of trustworthy publishers to drive better results.  This is especially significant at a time when legitimate journalism is being threatened and the spread of misinformation is rife.”

“The finding that advertisers can protect their brand safety by keeping ads off misinformation sites while also restoring advertising to quality news sites means they can have new options,” said NewsGuard Co-CEO Steven Brill. “Until now, advertisers often excluded  almost all news sites or used keyword ‘blocklists’ to keep ads off pages featuring news topics with words such as ‘Biden,’ ‘Black,’ ‘Hispanic,’ “Asian” and “LGBTQ+,” depriving many quality news sites of much-needed ad revenues.

“This solves a serious problem for brand safety,” said NewsGuard co-CEO Gordon Crovitz. “Despite claimed solutions offered by verification technology companies and ad platforms, major brands regularly send programmatic ad dollars to misinformation and disinformation websites.”

 A recent analysis using NewsGuard’s website credibility data and ad placement data from Moat Pro found, for example, that more than 4,000 brands have inadvertently funded COVID-19 misinformation websites during the course of the pandemic. These included top brands, such as Pepsi, Starbucks, Pfizer, Comcast, Verizon, and 105 hospital systems and health insurers—brands that never intended to fund COVID-19 hoaxes, but until now have not had an effective tool to avoid them. 

This test used the recently launched NewsGuard tool, “Responsible Advertising for News” (RANS), which enables advertisers to use humanly curated exclusion lists that keep brands’ ads off of misinformation website as well as inclusion lists, that direct brand ads toward credible news sites. In both cases, NewsGuard’s constantly updated monitoring of these sites by trained journalists produces a far more reliable product than blocking words or AI, which works well to identify pornography or hate speech, but has proven helpless in ferreting out misinformation. These RANS segments are offered through partnerships with agencies such as IPG Mediabrands and Omnicom, through pre-bid segments in Peer39’s offering within top DSPs, and through direct work with brands.

In this case study, NewsGuard ingested the client’s Allow List and ran an analysis against NewsGuard’s data. NewsGuard recommended sites for removal from the allow list because their credibility practices had changed—for example, a formerly trusted financial news site had begun publishing untrustworthy articles. Based on the client’s requests, NewsGuard filtered its list for sites with scores of 85 out of 100 or above with no political bias or other potentially risky characteristics. This represented a highly conservative application of NewsGuard’s data, optimized to minimize risk.

After applying the filters, NewsGuard recommended 1,034 new, highly trusted U.S.-based news sites to be added to the client’s allow list of 1,675 news sites, creating a new allow list 60% larger the size of the client’s original list.

The client made the adjustments to its lists and ran a test campaign. The campaign resulted in higher performance across multiple key performance indicators the client was tracking:

  • Increased reach: The incremental sites added by NewsGuard accounted for 19% of impressions served, generating incremental reach. 
  • Lower CPMs: The effective CPMs for these sites were 9% lower compared to the overall allow list. 
  • Improved efficiency: Cost per reach improved; ads on the sites added by NewsGuard were 81% more efficient than the overall allow list. 
  • Better performance: Viewability was comparable at 84%, and Click-Through Rates were 143% higher among the sites added by NewsGuard 

“A key finding from this test is that brands should increase their advertising on credible news,” said Gordon Crovitz. “The results show that brands that broadly block news by operating off of narrow allow lists or aggressive keyword blocking systems are leaving money on the table—and potentially a lot of it. Credible news content attracts engaged, attentive audiences who are looking for information to help them make decisions or better understand the world. For a brand looking to reach potential customers, an engaged news audience offers great potential. High-quality news sites are superior on multiple metrics: reach, CPM, efficiency, and performance. Brands would be wise to make more of these valuable environments.”

A White Paper describing this case study and the results in more detail can be found here.


About NewsGuard

Launched in March 2018 by media entrepreneur and award-winning journalist Steven Brill and former Wall Street Journal publisher Gordon Crovitz, NewsGuard provides credibility ratings and detailed “Nutrition Labels” for thousands of news and information websites. NewsGuard rates all the news and information websites that account for 95% of online engagement across the U.S., U.K., Germany, France, and Italy. NewsGuard products include NewsGuard, HealthGuard, and BrandGuard, which helps marketers concerned about their brand safety, and the Misinformation Fingerprints catalog of top hoaxes.

NewsGuard rates each site based on nine apolitical criteria of journalistic practice, including whether a site repeatedly publishes false content, whether it regularly corrects or clarifies errors, and whether it avoids deceptive headlines. It awards weighted points for each criterion and sums them up; a score of less than 60 earns a “Red” rating, while 60 and above earns a “Green” rating, which indicates it is generally reliable.

NewsGuard’s ratings and Nutrition Labels can be licensed by internet service providers, browsers, news aggregators, education companies, and social media and search platforms in order to make NewsGuard’s information about news websites available to their users. Consumers can access these ratings by purchasing a subscription to NewsGuard, which costs $2.95/month and includes access to NewsGuard’s browser extension for Chrome, Safari, and Firefox and its mobile app for iOS and Android. The extension is available for free on Microsoft’s Edge browser through a license agreement with Microsoft, and NewsGuard’s ratings can also be accessed free through the Edge mobile browser. Hundreds of public libraries globally receive free access to use NewsGuard’s browser extension on their public-access computers to give their patrons more context for the news they encounter online. For more information, including to download the browser extension and review the ratings process, visit newsguardtech.com. 

NewsGuard Contacts

  • Steven Brill, Co-CEO, steven.brill@newsguardtech.com
  • Gordon Crovitz, Co-CEO, gordon.crovitz@newsguardtech.com
  • Matt Skibinski, General Manager, matt.skibinski@newsguardtech.com
  • Carter Stone, VP, Strategic Partnerships, carter.stone@newsguardtech.com