By Maia Vines, Published on AdAge

Magna and Zefr find misinformation thrives on social media and TV

Brands need to be especially careful when it comes to running ads in places where misinformation thrives: That’s because consumers are just as likely to blame a brand for so-called fake news it appears next to as the author who posted it, according to a new study.

Ninety-three percent of consumers are exposed to misinformation, with most agreeing that it’s “out of control,” regardless of political ideology, according to a study published today by IPG agency Magna and data and technology company Zefr. Unsurprisingly, the bulk of misinformation is found on social platforms, followed by TV.

When those surveyed were asked who they think is at fault when a brand’s ad appears next to misinformation, participants blamed publishers, the platform and the brand more or less equally. Consumers believe that a brand that appears next to a piece of misinformation is supporting a website or platform that publishes misinformation, supports the misinformation itself and isn’t careful about where it advertises.

Brand safety and appearing alongside misinformation has long been a fraught issue for brands, especially on social platforms, and continues to be top of mind in the wake of Elon Musk’s takeover of Twitter. Last week, several brands’ Twitter handles fell victim to impersonators who purchased blue check marks, which have served as a verification of sorts on the platform. For Eli Lilly, this resulted in a fake account posting that they were giving away free insulin. Among the biggest concerns for brands, as it relates to Twitter, is the potential for Musk to allow misinformation to thrive on the platform.

Elsewhere, during the midterm elections, TikTok failed to catch 90% of ads featuring false or misleading messages about elections, according to a report in the New York Times.
When consumers see a brand adjacent to misinformation, the inclination for consumers isn’t necessarily to privately contact the brand to let them know they saw them appear next to misinformation, with only 23% saying they would message the brand. Instead, 37% said they would boycott the platform or publisher and 31% would share it on social media, according to the Magna and Zefr study.

Brands appearing next to misinformation face more than just reputational risks, as integrity may also affect revenue, researchers find. According to the study, 50% of consumers reported they were less likely to purchase from, and 51% reported they were unlikely to search for, brands perceived as supporting misinformation.

When a brand does find itself next to a piece of misinformation, 87% of those surveyed said it should take responsibility for its actions. Ultimately, consumers are looking for brands to be proactive, with 87% saying that brands should make every effort to avoid being next to misinformation; 84% saying they should have a policy regarding misinformation; and 79% saying brands should express their stance on misinformation.

Magna conducted four focus groups of around 20 individuals across the country along with 2,045 people surveyed online.

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