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“Brand Safety or Brand Sabotage? Unruly’s Alleged Complicity in the Breitbart Ad Controversy”

Alarm bells should be ringing throughout the digital advertising industry as recent findings have brought to light a glaring discrepancy that challenges the integrity of Unruly (now Tremor International Ltd. or Nexxen), once a bastion of brand safety and responsible media. It seems the online advertising juggernaut might have been caught asleep at the wheel, inadvertently or otherwise, propelling controversial news outlet Breitbart, known for it’s angry white man platform, back into the advertising fold under a façade that has left industry watchdogs and advertisers aghast.

The Great Deception: A Front for Controversy

After the legendary Sleeping Giants campaign effectively put a chokehold on Breitbart’s revenue streams, causing a mass exodus of advertisers, it seemed like a victory for brand safety advocates. But here we are, in the aftermath, scratching our heads as Breitbart appears to have slipped through the digital cracks. Thanks to Nandini Jammi, we now know what is going on.

On September 13, 2021, a mysterious seller account known as “Yorogon LTD (” emerged within Unruly’s inventory. With a Seller ID of 3825996461, seemed like just another addition to the bustling marketplace.

Yet, the shocking reality is that this ID is not serving at all — instead, it’s exclusively tied to Breitbart domains. Nothing else. A Hollow Facade?

A cursory glance at would reveal it as nothing more than a digital Potemkin village, an empty shell constructed in haste. Its purpose? Allegedly to mask the true beneficiary of Unruly’s ad traffic: If true, this subterfuge not only undermines the very foundations of brand safety protocols but also betrays the trust of countless advertisers who have placed their faith (and funds) in Unruly’s system.

Unruly has long claimed to be standard-bearer for the digital ad industry’s moral compass, boasting brand safety partnerships with DoubleVerify, Integral Ad Science, Moat, and NewsGuard.

As a founding member of the WFA’s Global Alliance for Responsible Media, Unruly has an even greater responsibility to uphold.

Yet, here they stand, embroiled in a controversy that suggests a breach in their due diligence process. How could such an oversight have occurred? Was there a lapse in their acclaimed verification systems, or is there a deeper complicity at play?

The Stakes for Advertisers

Advertisers worldwide are now in a precarious position, potentially funneling their ad dollars into a platform they had intentionally chosen to avoid. The implications are far-reaching: brands that meticulously cultivate their public image may now find themselves inadvertently aligned with content they consider incompatible with their values.

This is not a drill. The alarm has been sounded, and it is incumbent upon Unruly and its parent company, Tremor International Ltd., to respond with transparency and urgency. The digital advertising community demands an accounting for how such a breach of trust could have happened. This incident must be a catalyst for rigorous introspection and a recommitment to the principles of responsible media partnership.

Advertisers, too, must rally, demanding more than just automated assurances of brand safety. It is time for advertisers to scrutinize the black box of online advertising, to demand transparency and hold ad platforms accountable for the environments in which their brands appear.

As the dust settles on this disquieting revelation, one thing is clear: the industry must take a stand. This is not simply about Breitbart or any single entity; it’s about safeguarding the foundational tenets of brand safety, trust, and the ethical distribution of advertising dollars in the digital age. Unruly must act, advertisers must question, and the industry must evolve. The future of digital advertising integrity depends on it.

Pesach Lattin
Pesach Lattin
Pesach "Pace" Lattin is one of the top experts in interactive advertising, affiliate marketing. Pesach Lattin is known for his dedication to ethics in marketing, and focus on compliance and fraud in the industry, and has written numerous articles for publications from MediaPost, ClickZ, ADOTAS and his own blogs.

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