Jonathan Weinberg writes…
Just a week ago I called on advertisers to think more deeply about which websites they want their brands to be associated with. It came as a response to the Panorama BBC investigation into violent beatings and fights being filmed by youngsters and posted on the popular websites in the name of entertainment.
And now, it seems the money men are sitting up and taking notice. Obviously, I don’t – and can’t – claim the credit for that but I’m not sure I want to in this case, because on this one, I actually think they’ve got it wrong.
A few days ago Vodafone and First Direct, two of the UK’s leading firms, decided to withdraw their advertising from Facebook because it might end up appearing on pages run by the British National Party. Now we can debate the BNP’s stance all day and night but the fact remains they are a legitimate political party able to stand in council and general elections.
The initial move led to Virgin Media, the AA, Halifax and Prudential all turning off the revenue stream to Facebook with Virgin saying it had to “protect its brand”. What next though, companies like McDonalds deciding they can’t spend cash on the web in case adverts end up appearing with stories about vegetarianism.
Corporate responsibility is to be applauded but I don’t think this is the right way to go about it. I’m still waiting to hear of the firms ditching the sites showing youngsters brandishing guns on video or getting their heads kicked in for a laugh. I think that’s slightly more important than worrying your ad will be taken as support for a particular political party.
Web users are pretty savvy you know, when a flashing banner, button or sidebar appears, we know these are adverts that are paid for, mainly by middle-men agencies, with no knowledge of exactly where and when they will appear.
I’m pretty sure people don’t sit back and think the likes of Vodafone or First Direct support the BNP, Labour, Conservatives or Lib Dems. To think that we do is just Monster Raving Looney.
But while we’re on politics, this weekend I read the Conservatives were calling for a new law to jail bosses of websites that show the homemade violent videos if they fail to remove them. It’s a nice idea, maybe if the big chiefs allowing this to happen took the fall, they’d think twice about filling their servers with such nastiness.
And that’s exactly the kind of corporate responsibility on the web we could all be proud of.