As Publishers Field Controversies, Advertisers Reevaluate Spending Opportunities

As published in, by Sara Jerde

This inner turmoil could lead to a shift in brands’ willingness to advertise.

Key insight:
The more attention a particular publication receives, the more likely it is advertisers will avoid it and seek out other options to avoid the affiliation.

Several news organizations have had a change in leadership after internal unrest that has ranged from staff inequality to unequal pay to story selection.

The New York Times, Variety, Bon Appétit and Refinery29 are among the publications that experienced backlash from staffers on social media. But this moment, led by employees who have turned to social media feeds to advocate for better working conditions, feels different than previous missteps. And that could lead advertisers to rethink where they spend in an already hyperconscious environment of brand safety, media analysts and media buyers told Adweek.

Behavior that could have otherwise been overlooked is louder than ever, experts said. It’s up to advertisers to acknowledge it with their media dollars. In the short term, brands like Bon Appétit and Refinery29 could lose ad dollars, said Tim Smith, director of communications and media planning at agency IPNY.

“At the end of the day, it is the client’s decision. No brand manager wants to get a call from the C-suite or the PR department about the company getting called out because of a media placement,” Smith said. “At this point in time, when emotions are running so hot, any brand that senses any kind of turmoil is going to act first and ask questions later.”