Brands Have Been Funding False COVID Info; Marketers Are Experimenting With Clubhouse

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Misinfo Sitch

Brands may have said they’re all about brand safety during the pandemic, but the reality of where their ads are actually appearing tells a different story. According to a new report from NewsGuard, 4,315 brands ran more than 42,000 different ads on websites that had been flagged for publishing false information about COVID-19. Together, these ads likely generated millions – or even tens of millions – of ad impressions. The brands caught funding the spread of COVID-19 misinformation span nearly every major category and industry, from Pepsi and Spring to Macy’s and Rite Aid. In one example, brand ads ran on a website called, which advised that wearing masks would increase the risk of COVID. In another, brand ads appeared on, which claimed the pandemic was purposely engineered by billionaires like Bill Gates. In most cases, the ads were likely placed inadvertently rather than intentionally using programmatic ad-buying platforms, like Google’s DV360. Even so, NewsGuard’s findings demonstrate the vast scale at which programmatic advertising supports misinformation online – and how decisive action from large companies could help significantly reduce its reach.

Join The Club

Leave it to marketers to jump on the latest social fad. Ad Age reports that over the past week marketing leaders have joined super-hot invite-only audio app Clubhouse to lead often-spontaneous talks on everything from Reddit’s five-second Super Bowl ad to content marketing best practices to productivity hacks – often using LinkedIn to announce their plans to go live. Beyond using Clubhouse as a soapbox for their skills, marketers are also strategizing ways that their brands can benefit from the hype. They’re like moths to a shiny object. Although Clubhouse doesn’t show ads, brands are drawn to its appealing mixture of the best of LinkedIn with the appeal of podcasts. Although there’s no ability to message users directly, at least for now, there is a room group chat feature and the option to join “clubs,” which are groups of people interested in the same topics.


It’s become a meme of the pandemic: CTV ad spend is on the rise. But here’s an interesting wrinkle: most of that spend is going towards more established networks rather than streaming startups, according to an Advertiser Perceptions survey. Concern over ad fraud, especially in programmatic auctions, is driving large advertisers to favor linear TV and stick with the CTV options on offer from the names they already know. Those advertisers also seek the same assurances from CTV that they receive from linear TV, including that ads appear on reputable sites (87%), pair with brand-safe content (80%) and run within professionally produced video content (79%). As the video audience grows more fragmented, measurement has also emerged a top-of-mind concern for advertisers. “Big TV networks have really beefed up their CTV opportunities at the right time,” said Justin Fromm, EVP of business intelligence at Advertiser Perceptions. “They’re becoming safe harbors for the largest advertisers as fraud climbs in the medium. While the major internet platforms will lead in volume of streaming ads, TV network safety is keeping them the gold standard in video as the platforms evolve.” Marketing Dive has more.

But Wait, There’s More!

Remember when Facebook got sued for allegedly inflating its reach? Here’s the latest drama: Apparently, a Facebook employee who wanted to fix the problem was rebuffed on the grounds that the “revenue impact” for the company would be “significant,” according to a newly unredacted filing. [Financial Times]

Bill Gates says Trump should probably be allowed back on Facebook, despite his “corrosive” statements about the election. [Business Insider]

Users in Australia were caught off guard by Facebook’s news blackout and have expressed confusion. [WSJ]

Comscore and MediaMath are partnering in Latin America to launch programmatic contextual targeting for CTV, mobile and desktop. [release]

Here’s why Google’s Shoploop missed the social shopping trend. [Digiday]

Indie agency Allen & Gerritsen is urging the ad industry to support more local news. [CampaignUS]

TVSquared has teamed up with Experian to power TV ad measurement and deliver audience insights. [release]

You’re Hired!

Unruly has appointed former Amobee VP John Rogers as VP of business development. [release]

Following its recent acquisition of 180byTwo, MeritDirect has hired Guy Jones, as VP of product management, Gil Barzilay as VP of new business development and Alex Lukashov as VP of sales. [release]

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