Look at the mess we made PLUS our new podcast!
We get sh&t done. Here’s what’s next — and how you can help.
This is a special one, folks. It’s our 24th issue of BRANDED. It has been just over 1 year since we launched this newsletter. Happy birthday to us! Stay with us for a BIG SURPRISE at the end. 😉
But first, can we brag a little? We started BRANDED with zero expectations. It seems like everyone has a newsletter these days. What would make ours special anyway?
Well, our newsletter ended up rocketing from 0 to 7000 subscribers… and helped us shape a year of international coverage on the advertising industry:
We partnered with the smartest industry minds to break stories on adtech secrets:
We revealed how propaganda outlets like Breitbart are using dark pool sales houses to collect advertising revenues without their consent. (The research made its way into a national security policy recommendations paper released by Harvard Kennedy School and the German Marshall Fund.)
We walked you through the Google Custom Search Engine loophole that has kept advertiser dollars flowing to Breitbart, exposing advertisers — even the Biden campaign — to serious reputational harm.
We revealed the “secret” content classifications that brand safety vendors are using to block ad revenues from the news industry. (Not exactly a secret if it’s lying around on the open web, is it?)
We brought you the case study of Headphones.com, whose ad spend with Criteo dropped from $1200/day to $40/day without any change in performance after they implemented our recommendations. Wild!
We became the loudest advocates in the adtech industry for the news industry:
We started writing about the harms of keyword blocking in February and then we never stopped. Keyword blocking blocked $3 billion from the news industry and has destroyed thousands of journalism jobs — and it’s become our mission to make that common knowledge.
Our journey from Sleeping Giants to Check My Ads was a feature story in WIRED.
As brands started blocking Black Lives Matter keywords during last summer’s protests, The Drum named us and our work as being part of the solution.
We launched our first-of-a-kind company, Check My Ads! 🎉 , providing brand safety training for global brands, agencies, and ad exchanges.
We spoke to Afdhel Aziz in Forbes about our vision for Check My Ads.
We chatted with Kevel about why clients come to us and how we work with them.
We made headlines with Sleeping Giants.
The New York Times reported that Fox News had hired an entire secret task force to discredit Nandini and her SG co-founder. Talk about living rent-free in somebody’s head!
Nandini joined Bridget Todd for an interview on There Are No Girls On The Internet.
We helped the world make sense of the Facebook ad boycott:
Nandini sat down with Stiftung Neue Verantwortung, a Berlin-based think tank to talk about the Facebook ad boycott and the state of ad-funded disinformation.
Nandini joined UK-based Resource Alliance for a panel on “The ethics of Facebook for nonprofits”
We thought leadershipped:
Claire joined Joshua Lowcock, Dr. Augustine Fou, Louis-David Mangin, and DoubleVerify’s Roy Rosenfeld for WorkReduce’s panel on ad fraud.
Claire spoke to CTV news about the need for content moderation on tech platforms.
Nandini spoke to NBC News about hate groups using payment processors.
Nandini joined Stop Funding Hate’s Richard Wilson and News Laundry’s Manisha Pande for Media Rumble’s panel discussing hate speech in Indian media.
Nandini spoke to Inbound Success about how investing in brand safety will actually help you save big on your ad budget.
Nandini reflected on the change we want to bring with Check My Ads at TuringFest.
Nandini spoke about the importance of developing acceptable use policies and a transparent review process at Business of Software conference.
Claire spoke to Fortune about the “Holocaust Challenge” on TikTok.
Claire spoke to the UK’s Press Gazette about the future of programmatic advertising.
We started doing interviews together 👯♀️:
We did a lightning talk for RightsCon about the economy of hate.
We spoke to Retail Remix podcast about what retail brands need to prepare for.
We talked to Forbes about how brands can support Black Lives Matter by checking their media spend.
We led direct action work that led to direct results:
MediaMath placed The Federalist, The Epoch Times, RT & OANN on their universal blocklists after an inquiry from us.
Outbrain removed OANN from its inventory thanks to us.
Rubicon Project dropped OpIndia, a popular Indian hate site promoting Islamophobia.
Pubmatic dropped disinformation outlet The National Pulse from their inventory after we flagged it for them.
Nandini got Hotjar (website analytics software) to ban the Trump campaign and the GOP — the first software company to do so — and spoke to Huffington Post about it.
A major ad tech player informed us that a hate site we flagged with them triggered a review of their entire publisher onboarding process.
And just in the past two weeks...
Google finally demonetized MyMilitia[dot]com after the insurrection, and after months of Nandini tweeting at them
We joined The Marketing Society for an interview about our marketing predictions for 2021.
Nandini talked to Fast Company about how our ads fund coups, to Search Engine Land about how to manage your campaigns during a coup and DigiDay about the need to keep your ads on the news during times of crisis.
Claire spoke to AdWeek about how investors want proof their ads aren’t funding misinformation.
The keyword blocking data that we wrote about last issue was covered by Gizmodo.
We spoke to Ben Parker at The New Humanitarian about how brand safety technology is undermining democracy.
Our newsletter became a platform for change and started to move the needle in the industry… and then this month, there was a coup.
Did our advertising dollars fund an insurrection?
We don’t know what you saw that day, but what we saw was years of ad industry negligence come to life. Our advertising dollars have been fueling disinformation and extremism, and we finally saw the outcome play out in real life on Capitol Hill on January 6th.
It is still too easy to make money online creating disinformation and chaos. And it’s still too easy for our ad dollars to fund it. This isn’t just a brand or reputational risk anymore. It’s a risk to public safety and our democracy — and that means it’s everyone’s business.
For the first time, shareholders at two publicly-held companies are filing resolutions compelling them to check their ads to see whether their budgets are being funneled towards extremism.
“Advertisers are not passive bystanders when they inadvertently finance harm,” they wrote. Their spending influences what content appears online.”
That urgency is what's driving us to our next big launch.
Sponsor our new podcast IMMEASURABLE
For the past year, we’ve been talking mostly to the industry. But the adtech industry needs the full weight of public scrutiny for us to create change at the speed we’re looking for. That’s why we’re launching a podcast this year.
We’re going to be talking about how the ad industry is financing extremism and it’s going to be… well, it’s going to be really fun, honestly. This is a heavy subject and we know how to bring this issue to the public.
Do you want to advertise on this podcast? Great! You don’t have to visit any ad exchange or media agency. Just hit reply on this email. The first 5 sponsors who come in higher than $19,999 get an entire episode to themselves.
If you’re saying “OMG! SEND ME SPONSORSHIP DEETS!” send us a quick message and we’ll get right on that. And if you’re not in the position to sponsor, please pass along the word!
As always, thank you for reading,
Claire & Nandini