Claire Atkin helps brands define safety for themselves

Some decisions seem really simple. When I get to a fast answer on something, I can get frustrated by questions which aim to bisect something that appears straightforward. But as we’re all learning, there are very few simple answers built on something without defined principles. We can’t consider every possible decision we will be asked to make, but by clearly defining the basics, unpredictable questions are easier to answer.

If only it were that easy.

I had a wonderful conversation with Claire Atkin, co-founder of Check My Ads, which helps firms examine where their media funds are sent by their programmatic partners and software. Claire has an extremely pragmatic approach that makes the work of determining where a brand’s ads are running, which can seem overwhelming, very simple. The hard part in many cases is for the firm to decide what is in and out of bounds for its customers, staff and brand.

You can listen here: https://specific.substack.com/p/claire-atkin-helps-brands-define

Links: Check my ads – https://www.checkmyads.org/
Claire on Twitter – https://twitter.com/catthekin

Transcript below:

Adam Pierno: All right, welcome back to another episode of the strategy inside everything. This definitely feels like deja vu to my guests. We’ve already recorded this episode, and it was lost somewhere in the mail, I guess, is how I would say or due to my production problems that I have. Today, I am joined by the fantastic and generous Claire Atkin, who is the co founder of Check My Ads. Claire, how are you today?
Claire Atkin: Hey, I’m great. I’m great, I’m happy to be back.
Adam: I’m happy to have you back, and I’m delighted to have another chance to talk with you for a couple reasons. One, we had such a nice time chatting last time that it’s always nice to see your friendly face, but to a lot has changed, even in the past month since I last spoke to you I don’t remember what it was exactly but you guys have had some victories that Check My Ads that I want to kind of return to, after the audience gets to know you a little bit better. So, would you please give people a sense of your background, and how you kind of met your co founder and built up to what Check My Ads is today.
Claire: Yeah, absolutely. Check My Ads is a brand safety consultancy. And what we do is we help advertisers mostly like people with big ad spends and also who care a lot about their reputations, we help them stop funding hate speech and disinformation with their ad campaigns, and we end up talking about a bunch of other stuff as well you know brand safety fraud and optimization and marketing in general but brand safety is what gets us through the door, because it turns out the ad tech world the ad tech industry has made it really hard to control where our ads are going.
So, Nandini and I started Check My Ads, a year ago today, a year ago yesterday.
Adam: Happy birthday.
Claire: Thanks, Nandini is on the east coast and I’m on the west coast and she somehow managed to send me a cake. And so yeah, we didn’t
Adam: Shouldn’t Check My Ads get the cake? It’s their birthday.
Claire: Yeah, I mean it was pretty funny because it had like a candle with like a one on it and it said “Happy Birthday check my ass,” because sometimes when people are like, wait like what’s your name? Yeah, that’s what we think we’ve said, so she does, it was just a big joke is great. Anyway, we met a few years ago, when and then she came to my hometown, Vancouver. And I saw that she was coming on Twitter, we were like Twitter mutuals because you know marketing Twitter’s, a small community.Yeah, and I said, ‘Do you need a couch to stay on?’ and she said, ‘No, I don’t know you.’ And I sorry, fair enough. She said, ‘Let’s go for a walk.’ And we just clicked. It was amazing because she started Sleeping Giants. In 2016,
Adam: Right.
Claire: Sleeping Giants is a Twitter and Facebook account that would let advertisers know when their ads were on Breitbart and she took away like 90% of Breitbart’s funding. Within three months just by letting advertisers know that they were there.
Adam: Yeah, that they that they had been included or not blocked out deliberately by advertisers. It was programmatically being marketers budget was being used on Breitbart.
Claire: Yeah, it was just in the defaults that it would be sent to this altright site that was really good at and xenophobic and and not brand safe like I tell you what,
Adam: You don’t have to use past tense when you refer to Breitbart being xenophobic and racist, it’s still, I think it still is.
Claire: Oh, that’s totally true but in our world they’re like passe because everyone has agreed that their brand-unsafe, so now they block it.
Adam: Fair enough.
Claire: So she had had a lot of success with that campaign, and it was anonymous for the most part and then they came out in the New York Times, and while she was doing that. I as a marketer was also worried about the state of our democracy. So I was like, a good government-oriented Canadian, I went to study international election observation, and particularly like media observation at the Global Campus for human rights in Venice because I was like, ‘well, surely the experts would know what to do.’ And I found that they were doing what they could to follow election disinformation but it turns out that when you’re on a gated social media platform like Facebook, or even WhatsApp, you can’t see the spread of disinformation so they didn’t have the data that they required now that has since changed Facebook is working with election observers around the world, but that’s where my head was that we’re both marketers both of us had done like side projects where we were like, how do we fix the problem that marketing has created? And then when we met, it was like fireworks. It was like–best friends immediately.
Adam: And when you went to learn about that I think what you told me last time was they asked you ‘What would you do?’
Claire: Oh my god that is the case, yeah, they just turned it around on the class, they’re like ‘So we we like follow Twitter, and we try to like capture some tweets but. But what would you young people who like are more tech conscious like what would you do? Can you help us?’ And that was really eye opening, because I realized that, like the people who are best equipped to understand election disinformation were being stymied by tech platforms.
Adam: Yeah. And so there’s no, n o one knows the answers because this is a problem that is so big and shapeless and hard to find the front door to attack.
Claire: Exactly. So as marketers we just have a unique perspective, like, you know, if you’re an election observer you’re worried about the sharing of information. We’re worried we realized that marketers were helping to really fan the flames of disinformation especially election this information with our ad spends we’re actually giving money to people who are publishing this information, and yes, that’s great.
Adam: This is, this is what a distinction that has stuck with me. Since you and I have been having conversations that brand safety is the lever that is of interest to companies that they understand there’s already been some dialogue about that, but really you’re using that as a way to solve the second problem which is disinformation and hate speech, and its sources of funding and its sources of attention and how is it possible that that is still getting so much visibility, those two things are related.
Claire: They’re totally related and, and they’re related from a marketing perspective like no marketer that we talked to wants to be anywhere close to that stuff like our brands are something that we have put like a lot of late nights and agonizing and teamwork into to make them sustainable over decades. They’re precious. So to have them associated with publishers that are acting in bad faith that are actively making the world and more dangerous place is not okay.
Adam: What’s a kind of a garden variety site or piece of content that you see a brand is like – Breitbart is a pretty good example because it was not, it was just below the radar. It seemed that it was being shared out pretty frequently, and it had, it was you know Rush Limbaugh adjacent, And so it felt felt like, oh that’s safe until you really click into it and really spend some time reading it and two clicks later you’re like well, ‘How did I end up on this content, this isn’t this feels way different from where I thought it was starting’
Claire: Ahead of the 2016 election Breitbart was read more than Fox, and more than CNN on the on the on the web. So, I mean they were not inconsequential they were, they were a massive media operation before the 2016 election, and have taken credit for Trump’s win. Now it’s like, oh my god, are there actually hundreds of Breitbart, and it turns out the answer is yes. So the biggest one right now that researchers are looking at as like the biggest most popular purveyor of fake news is the Gateway Pundit, and they’re just. And is it because Breitbart had editors have no, you know, names that you know people that you recognize Gateway Pundit, to a lesser degree yes or there’s personalities that are writing and editing and are visible.
Adam: But aren’t there, hundreds of other sites that are more just churn fests of misinformation and how are you able to spot those and know what’s, what’s inbounds and what’s out of bounds so quickly, or what’s the, maybe it’s not quickly what’s the methodology for figuring that out?
Claire: Oh, that’s a great question. So we work with a lot of researchers like the global disinformation index news guard is helpful. We take information from John Donovan’s media manipulation handbook. And what we do is we look for networks of disinformation, and particularly when they’re stringing racist tropes as together as a sort of overall narrative–so they might hint at different you know racist xenophobic or bigoted ideas, more conspiracy theories, and that’s when it ends up being dangerous and brand unsafe usually. But I have to say, we are not the arbiters of what is brand unsafe and brand safe, the brands themselves are so what we do is we actually facilitate conversations where we say, look at this publisher look through it, evaluate it for journalistic standards versus this information and decide for yourself whether or not that is appropriate for you. We never make decisions on behalf of brands.
Adam: So, this is perfect. Tell me more about the process of working with Check My Ads, if I’m a brand and let’s say I am you know Fortune 1000 brand, and I have a media budget that is going on broadcast
11:12:58 media and digital media, I don’t really know what I don’t know, I want here the idea of brand safety. I find you. What is the process like to engage and what am I, what am I learning and what am I looking for as a brand marketer?
Claire: So the ultimate goal, usually is brand safety guidelines. Sometimes people pull us in for like a one off workshop. That’s great. No worries. That’s like, what are all the things you need to know in the questions that you need to ask when you are understanding brand safety? But when people are pulling us in for a larger engagement where they’re like, we really need to fix this, what we’re doing is we’re slowly designing brand safety guidelines for the brand, so that’s like corporate comms marketing brand and advertising. All those departments come together and they agree upon the standards for programmatic spend. So what is in is not appropriate use of their brand and of their advertisements within a campaign. And what we do is we help facilitate an understanding of the industry, how do we get here, why, why do we even dealing with this problem?
Adam: And how often do people not know what we’re dealing with all the time. I mean ad tech is abuse.
Claire: Yeah. So, when you’re a corporate comms person I mean, your job is to fight fires to constantly understand the social media landscape the news landscape. I mean, we work with companies who have entire librarians who are dedicated to understanding what is happening in the world.
Adam: Right.
Claire: So they’re getting news feeds every day like corporate news feeds every day trying to understand what is happening. And now they have to deal with a whole new type of industry called the brand safety industry. And, I mean, it’s hard to know what’s going on. So we give them a rundown like what what do we even dealing with, and then we talk about, you know, the disinformation what are we looking for when we talk about disinformation hate speech. Like what are what are the real dangers right now? people are really interested in social media personalities influencers like, at what point do they become Brandon safe and we sort of described a spectrum and then they decide. Okay, it’s at this point. And, and yeah we work with like whiteboard software to collaborate on brand safety guidelines.
Adam: But everything is everything from Check My Ads is a framework that they can you know served as a buffet, where a brand takes in users what they want and makes it safe for themselves so you’re just helping them decide what’s right for them and their brand.Some brands are probably more aggressive and willing to put up against some of these tense, more tense issues and some are more conservative and afraid to be near them. And that’s just, you’re not telling them one way or the other, what’s the what’s right content to do you don’t you don’t really care. You just want them to be aware of the choices they’re making.
Claire: Our entire message is, ‘You just need better control of your ads, And we’re here to help you get there.’ The biggest complaint that we’ve received from like, mostly libertarians in Silicon Valley is. Oh, who are you to be the arbiters of what is brand safe and one is brand unsafe? And we say, ‘We’re not.’ I mean, right now, the people who are are the ad exchanges and the brand safety tech companies, right, but we think actually the marketers should have better control.
Adam: And where does that take place, you know, where does the brand get to decide. And where does the control get not removed but the, it sounds like the ad tech industry is driving a lot of this with just the defaults. So is it just about introducing those defaults to the brand marketers and saying hey this is, ‘if, if you just look at how its set right now, Here’s what you get here and here’s what you have to figure out how to change the default.’
Claire: Totally I mean the very first stuff is not even to think about it in the abstract is just to check the ads like download your site lists and take a look. And once folks do that they’re like, ‘Oh my god.’
Adam: Always every time?
Claire: We have yet to have someone be like, ‘Oh, this is fine.’
Adam And what is the. So the defaults are really wide open, what you’re telling me it’s wide open or
Claire: We had one, we’re public about this case study because we are allowed to talk about them headphones dot com is a Canadian company they sell like $3,000 headphones, okay they’re like high end. And they were working with Criteo and Criteo was putting them, it was retargeting which is great, really good for for like direct to consumer ecommerce
Adam: Yeah and in a retargeting model and you do tend to keep you want it wide open you would not restrict it based on content in most cases because you’re saying oh these are already people that have engaged so let me follow them wherever they go. I don’t care, until. What did it what what made them suddenly care i’m guessing they found something they didn’t like.
Claire: So I, I knew this guy he’s like a friend of a friend, now he’s a friend. His name’s Andrew and I emailed him I was like ‘Hey, your ads are on the fox times like that’s a disinformation site. Did you intend that?’ and he said, ‘No, I had no idea.’ Is that you was inappropriate because people who are playing games on Android apps are not the same people he thought he would be buying really expensive headphones. And then the other thing is that a lot of the websites that he ended up advertising on were in places that he didn’t even ship to, like, Latin America, like, because the only ships in North America so he said this is this just doesn’t make any sense so he blocked. Those two things, and his ad spent went from 1200 dollars a day to like $40 a day. Wow. And he had the same results like he was still super happy with the results.
Adam: So, that’s the next question is yes brand safety I understand, saving money I understand, but does cutting it back harm you, because there is an audience for that crap that is actually buying headphones high end headphones in Latin America where you don’t ship. Sounds like maybe not.
Claire: I mean he was appalled. We saved him like $30,000 a month, which is 90% of his ads.
Adam: So he wants to high five you all the time.
Claire: Yeah, we go for coffee every so often and laugh about it.
Adam: Yeah, well that’s good I’m sure he’s able to put that money to better use them, giving it away to terrible websites.
Claire: So that’s kind of the point like how can we best optimize our ad spend so that we can market and much more efficient ways and that’s really what gets me excited as marketers. We don’t have to just keep automating things we could actually think about creative ways like even if he gave away a pair of headphones a month that’s still way more affordable.
Adam: But I want to make sure I’m because you just have we don’t have to keep automating it, and I don’t. The problem is not actually the automation. The problem is the controls that are set for the automation like you’re what you’re not saying is, everything has to be painstakingly done by hand, single person buying the you know – going back to the 90s that’s not what you’re saying. You’re not trying to make it harder. You’re trying to make it simpler for people to make better decisions. And for that $30,000 a month to go to a place that is mindfully selected for both the brands, both all three, the brand, the business outcomes, and the media outlet. So if you believe that your local newspaper for example is worth funding and potentially could drive business. Maybe you want to handpick them or make sure they’re included in your safe list.
Claire: Hundred percent. The the scale and the automation is so useful, so long as you don’t set it and forget it. That’s why we named our company Check My Ads. Like literally just take a peek. know what’s going on
Adam: Yeah the call to action is pretty funny when I, when I say it out loud I’m like I can’t believe it’s such a simple name. It’s just telling you what to do, technically, nobody needs to be hired for you to do it, you cannot, you can just download the list of domains.
Claire: 100%. I mean, leave it up to two marketers to put the CTA as the name of the company.
Adam: I love it. I’m a little jealous. What so what’s the bigger service that you offer because that is so simple and yet, as we both know a lot of times the most simple things like flossing becomes something is like I don’t know. I don’t feel like doing it. There’s a bigger service that you offer by working with brands, I mean, you’re, you get it you have engagements with brands that are that are significant and meaningful, I want to talk a little bit more about what you experienced there and what kind of what you’ve seen inside brands.
Claire: Yeah, the biggest surprise is that the people who pull us in are not advertising people it’s the people who are dealing with social media crisis so like corporate comms.
Adam: Yes
Claire: Brand. They really care about this issue. And so what we realized is that a lot of our engagement is actually diplomacy, like getting people from across departments in the room, so that we can exercise brand and understand brand from an advertising point of view because that conversation, ironically, has been completely lost within digital advertising. So we talked about that. And then we put together brand safety guidelines, and that’s like a document. So working document that they can share down the media supply chain. It’s a working document that they can share down the media supply chain. But then what we realized which also was really surprising is that all of our work was actually paving the way for a brand safety manager. Like, people started working with us in order to lay the groundwork to make an educated decision about who to hire to be a brand safety specialist.
Adam: Based on the guidelines and based on the environment in their organization?
Claire: They just, I mean the big question is where do you what do you put brand safety. Like who who should be funding the, the role? Or the, the job, who should be in charge of it? Who do they report to? Is it, is it a corporate comms thing is an advertising thing brand marketing like what is it. So, what we’re doing is working with our clients to help them write job descriptions, understand the issue, know what questions to ask. In the interview, like basically setting the setting the floor to get them up over that first mountain of brand safety.
Adam: Is there a consistent description of that role or is it really different from from org to org?
Claire: It’s different because, I mean, the general description is kind of the same but it’s different because every company works completely differently, like there are no rules for who –
Adam: So where it sits is different.
Claire: Exactly.
Adam: And so therefore some of the some of the description based on who they report to or who reports to them. Is it a single person in most cases or is it a team, or does that vary by size of media by and complexity and media.
Claire: It’s starting. Well, Good question. Uh, one. It ranges one person, one company that we know has put together a brand safety Guild. So that’s why they called it a guild what I love so much. They are basically having conversations like as an association within the company.
Adam: That’s interesting. Guild implies craft. Yeah. So there’s what do you know more about how they think about advancing the craft of brand safety?
Claire: Um, yeah I think they’re trying to evaluate all of the different brands safety vendors, they’re trying to really think about brand safety from a brand perspective, not from a KPI perspective but like from that immeasurable like brand lift.
Adam: Yeah. And, which is measurable, by the way we would, there are ways to measure it. Yeah, totally.
Claire: And they are. They’re just thinking about things in different ways. And so they. We haven’t engaged with the brand guild yet but they might be bringing us in for like a workshop at some point, which we go on a sense.
Adam: Well that makes a ton of sense then then by naming it the guild what they’re actually doing is not saying we’ve defined the craft. They’re saying we want to hire people who will advance the craft of brand safety and it’s not just someone in a static role but it’s someone or a group of people that are responsible for figuring out how to improve this over time because it’s not static.
Claire: Exactly, which is so true.
Adam: It’s incredible. Can we talk about our friends Sebastian Gorka?
Claire: I, if you don’t call him that we can.
Adam: Oh, what do you call him?
Claire: A person who I don’t know.
Adam: Okay, that’s, that’s fine. Last time we spoke you hadn’t hadn’t done this work yet but I guess there was an announcement that you had done some detective work and figured out that there were some
11:26:51 erroneously labeled websites that were kind of funneling money into a single provider or web publisher. That was almost pulling the wool over marketers eyes.
Claire: So
Adam: Is that – am I right about my description there or is it more complicated or more simple?
Claire: It was about that. I mean, it is kind of complicated because when you’re when you start to track where the ads go, or when you’re when you find a disinformation site or a hate speech site and you are looking to figure out who is advertising on there, or rather, who is who is platforming them. Like, as, who was working with them as an Ad Exchange, then it’s kind of complicated to like know what to look for. Yeah, I won’t go into those details but what we did find is that Seb Gorka who it has uh, how do I say this? He’s a neo-nazi, and has never claimed anything but in, in the public eye. He is probably universally Brandon safe. Like, maybe there’s 1% of companies that are fine with it. But other than that, it would be it would be shocking to me as a marketer, to have my ads on content that he writes or that he publishes. So on sebgorkha.com, we realized that there were a lot of advertisers, that would definitely not want to be there. And what we did is we followed the breadcrumbs, to figure out that it was actually really hard to block to block funding from sebgorkha.com. So just published our Branded newsletter about it it’s called ‘Branded,’ branded check my ads dot org. And, and we wrote about it and then I published a post about it on LinkedIn. And within a couple hours LinkedIn, took it down for bullying.
Adam: Well, that was the other part of the conversation wanted to have with you it was I was following the saga of because you use the word Nazi, I think, then LinkedIn flagged your post and is that right?
Claire: We thought that’s what it was. And we’re not sure
Adam: You’re such a cruel mean person, like I don’t what was the reason, like name calling or what? Did you get a reason?
Claire: I mean I didn’t even think it was named, I just thought it was universally accepted that he’s a neo nazi so yeah we got taken down and I, we just assumed it was that but if it is possible because LinkedIn works in a variety of mysterious ways it is possible that the URL itself that we shared like Check My Ads.org, or branded check me and said org slash Seb Gorka a Nazi is making money off ads. It’s possible that that URL got flagged, and it’s possible that anyone within sub Gorkha this posse could have reported reported on it for more than one person Yeah, but we have no idea like if that’s possible but we have no idea what’s going on. I try not to be a bully. I really like I just don’t want there to be. I just don’t want to fund hate speech with my ads like Is that too much to ask, well, even if you did want to fund it.
Adam: What I what i think Check My Ads does is, lets people make the choice. Yeah. If there are there, maybe there are some brands and some people that say I do want my money to go there. You don’t you’d pass no judgment on that.
Claire: I mean I i personally pass judgment on that, but you wouldn’t you wouldn’t advertise your brand or concerns there, but when you’re helping a brand, you don’t tell them once in and out of bounds. Now we don’t, that’s not the point. But that’s not our job like brands have unique brand requirements. And if they have certain goals, that’s fine but what they can’t do right now is control their ad spend or their ad campaign at a reasonable level. And so what we do is we advocate for that.
Adam: And what was the response to that work that you did Besides, besides the weird LinkedIn flagging issue I mean what was the response to your newsletter and the detective work that you had done?
Claire: You know, each this letter gets a completely different response because either. It goes, big on Twitter or LinkedIn, and it’s like quite public or it goes like subterranean, and it goes straight into the agencies and ad exchanges. And they’re like, well, we got to fix this. And I think about half a half of the ad exchanges that we mentioned fixed it. One in particular I won’t name them but they said you know already, this was a site that they damned controversial big quote marks. And so what they did is they didn’t have it in the defaults, but you had to ask to be on it if you want it to be on there, and I thought that was great. That, to me, is, is reasonable. I would also want there to be like a menu, like I would want that I would want to know what their what is not in the default that I could be on, right, because I know that, like LGBT q media is often also in that, quote unquote controversial category.
Adam: But I think that kind of like opt in opt out approach is probably pretty reasonable.
Claire: The big one that we got was the one before that which is when we published that that all these ad exchanges were working with Russian websites that had been sanctioned by the US Treasury and the US Treasury had announced the exact domains that that were sanctioned to the, like, to the consequences like 20 years in prison and like heavy fines Yeah, and all these ad exchanges were just like, they just ignored it.
Adam: I want to, I want to stop there, this was this was a public sanction announcement by the US Treasury, this was not some secret deep ops.
Claire: Yeah.
Adam: This was like Hey everybody, Americans doing business in the world. If you do business with these particular domains listed here in this order. You’ll be fined or punished by imprisonment for 20 years.
Claire: Yeah, and it was like these psyops like they’re Russian websites that look like they’re American websites, and they’re targeted, in part, at like ex military people. They’re left and right on the spectrum, so that they’re not like it’s not like a political thing. It’s just psyops is meant to divide and spread fear amongst Americans. And so, the Director of National Intelligence which who oversees by the way 16 agencies, I think, not a specialist here, but like the top person for intelligence in America was like, ‘Don’t work with these websites.’ And then we found that a ton of ad agencies were, and within like six hours of us publishing. None of them more.
Adam: Yeah. You were just by shining a light on it you were able to, because because ad agencies are not reading regular communications from the US Treasury probably, but they are enough people are getting your newsletter or have access to Twitter that they see it and say oh there okay this is something that relates to me.
Claire: Totally. Ad agencies should not be dealing with this, it should be the ad exchanges, yeah like Google has the resources,
Adam: Yeah.
Claire: To keep on top of this problem. You would think you would you would assume.
Adam: You would hope. Are they more responsive now since that story or, or do you think you’ll because it’s hard to know what, what’s a new problem or what’s an old problem that you’re uncovering as you’re finding some of these things? So for example, the Treasury announcement has a date on it. So you know when it was announced and how behind people were. But something like an individual who is publishing and using murky reporting and connections to funnel money to a different group, it’s hard to know how long ago that started or how easy it was for an Ad Exchange to notice that. So. On one hand I hear your work, being very neutral. You know, going into a brand and just teaching them. This is what the menu looks like choose for yourself. But on the other hand, sounds like some of the work you’re doing is looking at looking at problematic media and are you prioritizing it by volume, visibility, influence and saying, or this is the next one to look at because it’s so like Breitbart was the first one that Sleeping Giants worked on. And are you just moving down a list and saying well let’s look at this one and see if there’s any tentacles that it has, or is it just sort of what you stumble on and in your work and realize like oh we have to report on this?
Claire: Yeah, I wish we were that organized. It’s more like, we’ll put this out every two weeks we’ll put this major newsletter out, it’ll take like three full days of work it’s going to be free. We’re going to do a ton of research in the weeks ahead, and hopefully we’ll come up with a story every two weeks like hopefully, and it turns out there’s so many egregious stories. With this brand safety world, that, that we now have a backlog. And basically we put them out based on a number of things like how how almost done is the story how much more research, do we have to work with what other, like what are the journalists, we have to work with on this who do we have to let them know if, like if they’re invested in this company or if they’re funding this thing like we have to give people a heads up so it really I mean, a variety of factors go into our publishing schedule, including vacation which is going to be in a couple weeks we’re going on vacation. We’re just like no. No Branded, then.
Adam: I like this, I like that you’re taking a vacation you should. The, the show the work you’re doing is both. It’s a service to brands it’s a service to companies that are trying to do the right thing but it’s also a public service in a way that you’re trying to illuminate and make it clear that people are publishing with bad intention. So, that’s not clear to everybody, I people in my own family will ask me if ‘Hey have you seen this thing on Facebook?’ and it’s like yeah but Facebook’s not a publisher, there’s no editor, there’s no standard, it’s there just a receptacle. So what are what you’re reading came from somewhere else where was that, and they don’t know.
Claire: Right.
Adam: Yeah.
Claire: At some point, I don’t think it’s a secret, but it’s it’s not well known that we are, we’re putting out a podcast, hopefully sometime this year and that will bring this story in a much more dramatic and find a way to engage in way for all those like for for all the non ad tech folks. That’ll bring it to the public and will help the public hopefully understand the issue of ad funded disinformation a lot better. But I know I’m so excited we’re in the writing phase and it’s going really well. But, uh, yeah that’s not like that’s not really. Our focus right now, we have to advocate, as marketers, on behalf of marketers to the ad tech world for better controls and how do we do that, we just have to publish these stories and say, like, look at all the ways that you are not allowing us to control our ads because if we could, if we did have insight and control over that, none of this would be a problem.
Adam: How easy is the ad tech world to work with? I know when I say the ad tech world that’s already lumping together a huge collection of industries even not just companies or individuals but whole industries get lumped up into that so maybe the Ad exchanges are the place to start, or you tell me where is a better place to start, but is it just 100% impenetrable.
Claire: No.
Adam: Or are there are they looking for this help, or are they, pushing you back and saying ‘Hey stay out of this’?
Claire: I will stay out of it comes up every once in a while, there’s like two or three people who are just like, ‘all right, sit down girls.’
Adam: Yeah,
Claire: To which we say, ‘No.’
Adam: Thank you we will stand.
Claire: But a lot of people in the tech world are either public or private supporters of our work, and we are very, very grateful for those people, they will DMS when they see that there’s an issue that we should know about, they will help us research different options for for figuring out solutions to problems or to figure out what the hell’s going on in certain places. We have a large, I would say, I don’t know like group of friends who are ad tech centric who understand the technology side really well, who will check in with us about all kinds of things and they work at large ad exchanges, they work at brand safety tech companies they work within the all the companies that we are publicly criticizing because they know,
Adam: Should they be doing this work on their own? Or is it too big for anybody to claim?
Claire: Who am I to say what someone should do with their career, I am young. I don’t have like kids or a mortgage, I don’t like if I go bankrupt, no one else is going hungry, it’s just me, whereas other folks like you know everyone’s in their own life situation. I would appreciate some more people standing up within ad tech companies to say, I’m uncomfortable with the direction of this product, or with our marketing tactics or whatever. But you know, I see a lot of courageous people reaching out to us privately and that’s that’s really wonderful. And you know where the real leaders are right now within the brand companies that we work with those clients, those are like their marketing leaders who are like, we need to check our ads and the diplomacy that is wrapped up in that one statement.
Adam: Yes, takes a lot of guts and a lot of leadership So speak to that a little bit what what is it about that, that simple. That thing that sounds really simple, but if for anybody who has been inside a matrix organization is probably getting getting that feeling in their back where they go, Oh yeah, this is going to be a series of conversations and meetings that I really don’t want to think about, just to check the ads. You need to see a corporate comms person.
Claire: Okay, say it’s me in corporate comms in a company, and I’m like, oh man, I’m really dealing with a lot of social media crises that are all coming from the advertising department, but I don’t want a flame out the advertising department, especially not to the executive. It’s like how do you navigate fixing a problem that someone else created that probably is even an external problem like it could be created at the ad agency level at the Ad Exchange level of the brand safety tech level, like, you have to understand what is going on without sounding accusatory without sounding like you’re auditing people are giving them evaluations, and to pull everyone into the room with the blessing of the executive or with management, actually takes a great deal of effort so the leaders that we work with are adept at that. They are generally very well trusted and they’re very good at their jobs, and I am an all of the people who pull us in because they are not doing a thing that is easy.
Adam: No, it’s a big. It’s a simple thing, but that it’s a, the first domino for a lot of other effort and a lot of other work that they have to do to enact any change based on what they find when they check the ads.
Claire: Totally and I’m just talking about internally like to the company, let alone with the agency. When you ask the agency, ‘Hey, can I get a sight list?’ the agencies like wait ‘What?’
Adam: ‘Why?
Claire: Yeah. And I’ll go off there’s probably a whole different just had. We just had one client, they, they got a response back me like yeah sure here’s a sample.
Adam: It was, it was 10, it was the top 10 websites, you know, BuzzFeed CNN. No problem. Everything’s fine You’re on ESPN. com. Yeah, yeah.
Claire: You want to go a little deeper than that, it’s gonna be an awkward conversation when they get there. Yeah.
Adam: Not good. How, what’s the what’s the best way for people to help.
Claire: Okay, great question. We will be announcing some big changes within Check My Ads soon there will be opportunities to help us both on the advocacy side and on the client side. We probably the best thing right now will announce everything through the newsletter so if you are interested and brand safety in stopping election this information and stopping the funding of hate speech and disinformation in general, making society, safer place with a pragmatic simple focused way, please visit us at branded Check My Ads.org and just sign up for the newsletter because that’s when you can find out all the things that we’re about to launch and about to be up to.
Adam: Great. I will link to that obviously in this in this episode. But, Claire It was great to talk to you again.
Claire: Thank you, Adam. It’s wonderful to talk to you.
Adam: I mean you’re, you’re a bit of a bully, I will admit that LinkedIn and I agree that you’re very mean, is what it is.
Claire: I guess
Adam: You’re like a rattlesnake Claire. What’s going on?
Claire: Listen, if you’re if you’re talking, if you’re talking the Nazi talk. I’m not going to be friendly. Okay, fair enough good for 100 fair one.
Adam: All right, well I think so I know people think people can find you at Check My Ads.org I think we’ve made that part clear, anywhere else you’d like people to find you?
Claire: I mean, all right. Twitter is Twitter is where we hang out. So cat the king on Twitter CATTHEKIN. And, Nandoodles is my business partner, Nandoodles on Twitter is much more interesting and she like brings the drama, it, it is a joy watching her work. I recommend following her for her for some entertainment and me for like pragmatic earnest marketing sense
Adam: And bullying, from time to time,
Claire: And some really mean bullying.
Adam Exactly. Alright Clair Thank you great to talk to you again.