Are your ads unwittingly financing terrorism?

A startling investigative report in the London Times has shed yet more light on the difficulty of tracking where advertisers’ online dollars are going.

Adverts for Sandals, the luxury holiday operator, appear on YouTube videos promoting jihadists
Adverts for Sandals, the luxury holiday operator, appear on YouTube videos promoting jihadists

The report follows:

“Some of the world’s biggest brands are unwittingly funding Islamic extremists, white supremacists and pornographers by advertising on their websites, The Times can reveal.

Advertisements for hundreds of large companies, universities and charities, including Mercedes-Benz, Waitrose and Marie Curie, appear on hate sites and YouTube videos created by supporters of terrorist groups such as Islamic State and Combat 18, a violent pro-Nazi faction.

The practice is likely to generate tens of thousands of pounds a month for extremists. An advert appearing alongside a YouTube video, for example, typically earns whoever posts the video $7.60 for every 1,000 views. Some of the most popular extremist videos have more than one million hits.

Big advertising agencies, which typically place commercials on behalf of clients, have been accused of pushing brands into online advertising to boost their own profits.

Companies are concerned that they are paying huge mark-ups for digital promotion and receiving “crappy advertising” in return. Leaked documents from one “top-six” agency show that about 40 per cent of its advert-buying income in 2015 came from hidden kickbacks as well as from “other income”. One source said this mainly derived from mark-ups applied to digital commercials.

Author: Stephen Yolland

Director of Creative Strategy and Partner @ Magnum Opus Partners.

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