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Published on 
December 10, 2021

Check My Ads dove into the online disinformation crises and took on the digital wild west - the ad industry

We sat down with Check My Ads co-founders, Claire Atkin and Nandini Jammi, who noticed a huge increase in brands' digital advertisements appearing on websites that they didn’t intend their marketing efforts to support. They were also alarmed with the role digital advertising played in spreading disinformation. Check My Ads is on a mission to expose where ads are really ending up usually without the marketer even knowing and how brands can regain control in the digital wild west, otherwise known as the ad industry. 

In our conversation, Jammi and Atkin exposed the stem of the issue, clarified their roles in the system (for all those trolls in the back), explained what brands can do today to double check their marketing efforts and highlighted the power brands have if they work together. 

You can listen to the episode here: 

Highlights from the episode: 

Claire and Nandini share their thoughts on the following topics…

Why it’s important to understand the disinformation crisis: [1:00]

“Disinformation is one of the biggest crises of our time...the reason that we think it's so important to talk about within ad tech is that disinformation is incredibly profitable. So the more people click on an article on Facebook, the more ads the publisher receives. So they're incentivized to write wild headlines that scare us, that make us hate our neighbors, that make us distrust the government.”

The important role marketers play in this digital crisis : [7:37]

“The marketer no longer is able to really track where the ads go. And so what we're doing at Check My Ads is bringing this to the attention of marketers and saying, you do have to pay attention to where your ads go....This is about brand reputation and what we have heard over and over again is that marketers agree with that. When they are checking their ads, they are shocked and appalled at where they are finding them”

History of brand safety: [12:44]

“A layer of technology called brand safety has existed for 15-20 years already… They popped up originally to help advertisers stay away from actual violence, actual terrorist content...But what brand safety technology didn't do was anticipate the disinformation crisis...brand safety companies had to come back with some kind of a solution to this because now it was sort of like on them to solve the problem. First, they asked and encouraged advertisers to start placing more and more keywords onto their keyword block list. So originally it was stuff like ‘terrorists’ and ‘bombs’ and, ‘shootings’ and ‘blood’. these lists tended to be pretty short. Over time, and particularly after 2016, brands did what they were told. They started to add everything that would potentially be controversial”

Their main goal: [16:56]

“We are fighting for advertisers to have the choice. And that's, I think that's a much more reasonable approach. We believe that advertisers and, and the marketing teams that run their campaigns should be able to choose where their ads go.”

Full Transcript: 

Dan Conn: Welcome to the thought leaders podcast. Uh, got two very, very interesting guests with me today. A bit of a special episode, We have Claire and Nandini, the co-founders of Check My Ads, which is an independent watchdog that is basically a holding the tech industry. So welcome to the show. How are you guys doing?

Check My Ads: Hi. We're good. Thanks for having us doing great. 

Dan Conn: Fantastic. Okay. I'm going to start right at the sort of heart things. Why is it important that we are looking at the problem of disinformation in a way that you guys are.

Check My Ads: Who [00:01:00] big question. So disinformation is one of the biggest crises of our time, where everything that we're talking about today, that is a threat to human survival. We're talking climate change, we're talking, uh, hate speech. We're talking anti-vaccine disinformation, anti COVID disinformation, everything that is a threat to us as a society, community or series of communities is, uh, is being made worse by disinformation on the internet. And the reason that we think it's so important to talk about within ad tech is that disinformation is incredibly profitable. So the more people click on an article on Facebook, the more the ads the publisher receives. So they're incentivized to write wild headlines that, that scare us, that make us hate our neighbors that make us distrust the government.

Nandini. And I started Check My Ads to help understand the relationship between this information and how they make their money. 

Dan Conn: All [00:02:00] right. So, so obviously I think that's something that a lot of us can relate to. These are not stories that we are unfamiliar with, but what is it about your background specifically that, that got you into 

this

Check My Ads: Yeah. So I both Claire and I areB2B marketers. We spent our entire careers working on, uh, I basically being one woman marketing machines for our respective clients. I back in 2016 was working for a small tech startup. When I, I went to visit breitbart.com for the first time, Breitbart was, uh, at the time and still is one of the most influential.

media outlet, uh, disinformation outlets in, uh, in the country. And they are widely credited with helping Trump win the elections. They were just a fountain of disinformation and hate and racism and bigotry. And, uh, though Breitbart had been talked about as a source of disinformation throughout the new cycle.[00:03:00] 

I, uh, I was just shocked to see that, you know, this, this, this website was covered in ads from companies that wanted to. Get my business. So, there was, there was national brands, national advertisers who I realized probably had no idea that their ads were on this website of all places. Um, because as a marketer, I knew that the way that programmatic advertising works is that you just turn on your ads and they will appear pretty much anywhere on the open web.

So, uh, I co-founded sleeping giants. Uh, we anonymously ran a Twitter and Facebook accounts. What we hoped to be like two weeks or two months or something, but ended up becoming a, uh, I mean, at first it just started out, you know, a couple of us screenshotting ads on, on Breitbart and tweeting it at the companies to be like, Hey, did you know that your ad is next to this, you know, funding this type of content, this type of rhetoric.

And. The [00:04:00] brands were so quick to respond. It was just shocking how quickly they responded because they didn't. They wanted people to know they wanted nothing to do with this. They didn't even place these ads. So, they would block their ads and what ended up happening was that people on online saw how effective our work was and wanted to join us.

So we were basically able to create a crowdsourced campaign. With thousands. And we go to be over 400,000 followers on online who are tweeting at companies daily saying, Hey, uh, you know, check her ads and I should review your media, buy it. This isn't where you want your ads to go. And these companies were coming back and confirming with either us or with the, the, the user who tweeted.

And that way we were able to really create. Massively effective unprecedented campaign, the first brand safety campaign, as it turns out, uh, 90% of Breitbart's revenue was just wiped out in the first three months of our [00:05:00] campaign. And, uh, and that was because over 4,000 advertisers individually blocked them.

But also because, uh, over 30 ad exchanges struck them as well. So they were just. Cut off from the advertising industry and that really curbed their, their growth. At that time, they had planned to, uh, expand their operations and to Germany and France ahead of their elections. And that never happened. So it was a really, really successful campaign.

It introduced a new way for people to, fight back against disinformation. And, uh, it, it helped us to, uh, really, I guess, write a new playbook on what we needed. To fight this stuff. 

Dan Conn: I mean, it's incredible. What's been able to be that an album of impact on, on global politics is huge. I think that I think of what might be confusing to a lot of listeners.

I know I'm confused about it is how does this [00:06:00] industry actually work? That you can get a situation? Doesn't want to be in a place that they're advertising, uh, and doesn't know about it. 

Check My Ads: That's such a big question and a good one. So, uh, the advertising world used to work like the marketing team at the brand at the advertiser would contact the newspaper and say, I want to be on, you know, a one and I want to be on B3.

And I want these advertising,, slots, and I want this creative there. That is no longer how advertising works. Uh, most of the time it's on a programmatic real time bidding sort of stock exchange, commoditized, system. So the what happens now is it looks like the marketer goes to the ad agency, the ad agency

or even the media agency will go to the ad exchange. The ad exchange will then send the creative to, other ad exchanges. [00:07:00] And then it gets convoluted from there. The ad exchanges there will represent publishers and then the publishers will be connected to, uh, the abs that way. So we're talking about a chain of command that sometimes has three.

Uh, links in the chain and sometime has, you know, it could be as many as 20. So, uh, you've got a lot of ad-ons and the whole supply chain is very complex. And so what ends up happening is that the report that a marketer gets on their side is all right, you've spent this much money. You've sent this much creative out This is your click through rates.

This is your impression rates. This is your cost per million impressions. And that's how you understand a campaign. The marketer no longer is able to, especially because it's at scale is able to really track where the ads go. And so what we're doing at Check My Ads is bringing this to the attention of marketers and saying, you do have to pay [00:08:00] attention about where your ads go.

This is about brand reputation and what we have heard over and over again is that marketers agree with that. And they are checking their ads and they are shocked and appalled at where they are finding them 

Dan Conn: so if I'm a marketer and I'm worried about my brand representation and Check My Ads, notifies me that something's going on, who is it that I talked to you to get it turned up?

Check My Ads: It goes down the supply chain. So the marketer will talk to the ad agency. The ad agency will talkuh the demand side provider, the, the ad exchange that they work with, and then they'll try to fix it from there. It's difficult and it's diplomatic, and it requires a certain level of trust with, with your team and with everyone you're working with.

And it can be embarrassing when you end up on sites that are. Antithetical to your brand values. So this is a, it's a tricky thing for [00:09:00] marketers to do. And we have seen an incredible amount of leadership in the industry on this particular topic for the last few years. And we're very impressed. 

Dan Conn: So, I know you guys are speaking to a lot of brands, a lot of our tech companies.

What's your, what's your connection to them? And I know obviously you're the whole mission is to highlight these things, but how are you helping them in organization? How do you connect to them and explain to them what's going on? How do you work with them on a day to day basis?

Check My Ads: We use examples. Everything we do is storytelling. So we will, uh, contact advertisers using examples of their ads on disinformation outlets. And by disinformation, we're really talking about the obvious disinformation. These publishers use lies to spread hate and fear and. And then when they realize that there is at least one problem that it advises them to check their ads, to see where they're really going.

And that's usually when they find other [00:10:00] problems. 

Dan Conn: So do you ever get any resistance to this? Is there any brands that, uh, or Ad exchange the say no. I'm not interested in changing. And, and how do you try and handle that situation? 

Check My Ads: Well advertisers and ad exchanges have completely different incentives.

And we think that they're essentially opposing incentives at this point. Um, advertisers, particularly blue chip and national advertisers don't want to have their ads associated with, uh, with, with hate or disinformation. That is a given. And we establish that, uh, proof of concept with sleeping giants when presented with information.

 That shows that they're funding, uh, this type of rhetoric, they will pull their ads. So that's, you know, we've, we have that squared away. But what we're, what we're seeing is the problem is the bottleneck really. And the source of the problem is their supply chain. So what Claire just explained with agencies and, and [00:11:00] the, uh, DSPs and ad exchanges and SSPs, they all have.

 inventory policies that in theory are supposed to protect advertisers from, uh, hate and harassment violence, targeted, harassment abuse, or, uh, uh, abuse towards marginalized groups misleading narratives and so on. So. In theory, they're supposed to protect their, their clients from being in brand unsafe environments.

But in reality, and in practice, we don't see that taking place. How do I know? Because, cause we go to these websites every day and we still see some of the same advertisers who blocked Breitbart five years ago, still appearing on websites like this. I mean, imagine being Warby Parker five years ago, they were one of the first brands to publicly block Breitbart from their media.

And five years later, just, uh, just back in September. So just two months ago, [00:12:00] I found their ads on daily wire supporting exactly the same kind of rhetoric and that wasn't them Warby Parker doesn't want to be there. That was their, ad partner Liveintent who placed their ads in a daily, daily wire email.

So this continues to be, uh, a problem and what we have to, what was it? Some of the, some of the biggest and most important, most critical work that we do is educating advertisers that they're at supply chain does not have their best interests at heart, but rather their own bottom line. 

Dan Conn: There seems to be a lot of companies today that are trying to tackle the problem of brand safety and certainly, uh, pitching it as a solution to advertisers.

And w why, why is that failure? Why is that?

Check My Ads: so what's happening with brand safety, uh, technology companies. So, yes, a layer of technology called brand safety has existed for 15, 20 years already.

They popped up originally to help advertisers [00:13:00] stay away from. actual violence, actual terrorist content. So like back in the day when YouTube was growing bigger, um, ISIS terrorists for example, were posting beheading videos on YouTube and like ads were popping up on that and it was sending money over to those guys.

So, so brand safety technology popped up as a, as a solution to that. But what brand safety technology. Didn't do was anticipate the disinformation crisis. So back in 2016, when these, uh, when, when websites like Breitbart popped up, well, Breitbart classifies itself as news, it classifies itself, and it was classified as well by Facebook and Google as a, and still is actually as a new source alongside CNN and the New York times.

But we all know that's not true but brand safety technology doesn't and in fact, brand safety technology and the people behind it don't have a definition for disinformation. So when all these advertisers got caught [00:14:00] with their ads on Breitbart, the brand safety companies had to come back with some kind of a solution to this, because now it was sort of like on them to solve the problem.

So what they did was two things. Uh, first they asked and encouraged advertisers to start placing more and more keywords onto their keyword block list. And this, this technology had existed since the beginning of, of brand safety of the concept of brand safety. So block all the words that you don't want to be next to.

So originally it was stuff like terrorists and bombs and, uh, shootings and blood. Uh, so these words, these lists tended to be pretty short. Over time. And particularly after 2016 brands did what they were told. They started to add everything that would potentially be controversial, not again, not racist or, or bigoted or, or hate speech, but just normal words.

So for example, after the [00:15:00] Parkland shooting, lots of brands ended up blocking the word Parkland. They ended up blocking the words, school shooting, and. In doing so they blocked all news coverage of Parkland of the Parkland school shooting. Like any listener listening to this would be like, huh, wait a second.

I thought we're talking about disinformation. Um, so brand safety tech and keyword lists to basically say because they cannot define this information because they have not stayed away from disinformation. Now they've just decided to block the news, which is the exact opposite of what

anyone wants. 

Dan Conn: Yeah. I think when you, when you put it that way, it sounds, it sounds a bit crazy. It sounds like there's two sides to this challenge, ultimately, which is one. How to [00:16:00] create brand safety guidelines that are global and definitive and agreed upon, um, and two how to technologically implement them.

So I think the technology sides may, may well be difficult. I'd love to explore that more, um, um, in a little bit, but. Oh on the, just the side of, of things, of what should be in a guideline. And how'd you even go about writing a doable set of guidelines for this? 

Check My Ads: Yeah, we, we don't know if a global set of guidelines is possible.

What we do is we work with each individual advertiser to set their own guidelines based on their, their brand standards. And what we are fighting for within this industry is not for disinformation to be universally defunded but although that is something that we think, uh, would probably benefit the world, what we are fighting for advertisers to have the choice.[00:17:00] 

And that's, I think that's a much more reasonable approach. We believe that advertisers and, and the marketing teams that run their campaigns should be able to choose where their ads go. Because more often than not, we see the advertisers don't want to be funding, hate speech. But right now, the ad tech companies have taken control of that.

The brand safety tech companies have taken control of that. And they've said, don't worry, we've got you. We'll take care of it. And what they're actually doing is still sending money to disinformation outlets while blocking legitimate news outlets. 

Dan Conn: That's happening to you guys. A lot of, uh, a lot of, a lot of critical, a lot of dust being kicked up by activity that you guys are doing. I think the answer is that the brands want to do this. You're just highlighting something that they want to do. 

Check My Ads: Yeah, absolutely. I mean, the brands are the ultimate people who make the decision, not us.

We are not giving orders to brands. They are not complying as the, the [00:18:00] trolls, like to say, uh, We're just trying to sunlight. What is actually going on within the ad tech stack. And as soon as we do, we find that advertisers pull their ads and ad tech companies at exchanges, they actually start to block them or drop them from their sales.

And that, that is incredibly powerful when they do that. Um, it turns out that when you tell people what a company is doing, the company usually does the better. 

Dan Conn: So you guys, you guys are obviously, uh, we're doing this to degrees for a while now. What's, what's the things that you have most proud of that they've been able to achieve today.

Check My Ads: I'm proud of a lot of stuff that we've done. I mean, even with sleeping giants, that was, I thought. That was going to be the biggest sort of like demonetizing Breitbart was going to be the biggest thing that we did, but I'm really proud of the campaign that we took on after that we, uh, after the allegations of bill O'Reilly a Fox news host [00:19:00] who was sexually harassing his colleagues in the workplace.

After those allegations came out, we were able to successfully. Convinced advertisers to leave bill O'Reilly and bill O'Reilly eventually lost his show. And I think that this kind of, uh, creation of consequences and this, this, I guess, as what we've done over the past few years is really create this culture of consequences for bad actors, for people who are, you know, harming their communities and harming their coworkers and harming people around them.

We've been able to successfully change that conversation and really draw a line between advertisers and the, and, and the funding of the bad things that are happening in our world. And, and I think that's sort of, I guess I could, I could go in and into a lot of different campaigns that we've worked on, but really, I think that that narrative is one of the most important things.

And the thing that[00:20:00] every time we put out a branded, which is our newsletter. Um, so every time we put out a branded that highlights a relationship between an ad tech company and a disinformation outlet, things change, someone gets dropped, something gets dropped, they stopped selling it to advertisers, advertisers, either block it, or they pressure the ad tech company to block it.

This is profoundly pragmatic work. This is just, we're talking about Facebook. We're talking about Google, these giant monopolies that even governments, even the most powerful world, governments are having a hard time reigning in. And what Nandini and I are doing is, is looking at where the ad tech is helping this information make money at the very last stage.

These are relationships that are. That are against their own supply policies. They have gone and they have shared bank account information. They've shared shared credit card information. They've [00:21:00] written contracts and signed them together against the best interest of their clients, the advertisers. And so what we're doing is the most tangible, pragmatic way of fighting the disinformation crisis that we're in right now.

And I just think that's that overall is something to be proud of. I mean, I feel like it's something that people can do. Joining us is something that people can do, which is, uh, a breath of fresh air and a place in a, in a time when we feel like we don't have a lot of power. 

Dan Conn: So, I mean, you say people can join you and have do what you do.

You have a lot of people that are volunteering and helping you out with this. I guess checking ads is that, is that how they work there, you relying on people sort of seeing these things and reporting them. And that comes up through, Check My Ads to, to post cards. How can people help? 

Check My Ads: The biggest way that people help us right now is by signing up to branded and signing up as a checkmate.

So at check, Check My Ads.org, we have a [00:22:00] place where you can become a member. And what we do is every time we put out a branded, we have a call with people who are checkmates and that's where we discussed the. The branded that we just put out the newsletter that we just published and the story. And then we get a ton of questions and feedback, and that's the most powerful way that people have been supporting us.

And then of course there will be lots of campaigns for anyone who is a follower on Twitter, on social media in general, on LinkedIn, Instagram, uh, to weigh in publicly on what is going on.

Dan Conn: so in obviously you, what you guys do, you mentioned some great examples that of campaigns that have taken the revenue out of the hands of, of, uh, people that are providing this information. You also describing situations where, where. Can find themselves again in on content that they don't want [00:23:00] to be on.

Even if they're trying to block it previously, it's a sort of digital whack-a-mole that's taking place. So what takes us out of this scenario where we're constantly, uh, fighting one by one and taking things down. They're coming back up, what structure he needs to change?

The, this isn't the scenario anymore. 

Check My Ads: So what we've been seeing since 2016, since we started this journey is, um, you know, we've, we've sort of been learning as we go. So what I knew in 2016 was when you see an ad on a website, it means that the advertiser is sponsoring that site usually unintentionally, right? Because of programmatic.

But what we've learned since then is that this goes, this whole thing goes a lot deeper than what we see. Um, in front of our eyes. In the past few years, we've moved away from primarily contacting advertisers about their ads to the ad exchanges, because what we found again is when we go to the ad exchange and the ad exchange drops an outlet that cuts off [00:24:00] the publication immediately from thousands of advertisers.

And now what we're finding is. We need to think even bigger. So we want to go into looking at disinformation rings, disinformation networks, and understand how these outlets form echo chambers, an active sort of fake news rings, and then take those down. And when we do that, were able to.

Really, really make a dent in the disinformation economy because what the bad guys do is they don't just bank on one outlet. They bank on a whole ecosystem of disinformation outlets. And so when one thing gets shut down, they just move on to the next thing. And so what we need to do is ensure that we understand what those, what those rings are and where those guys are doing.

So that we can take, we can take down the whole thing and then ensure that they [00:25:00] don't, they're not able to get back into the ad tech ecosystem. 

Dan Conn: Are there, um, certain platforms that are easier to track this stuff on for you guys than others, which ones are harder to hold accountable. And do you even think about it on the platform level? 

Check My Ads: Yeah, we focus almost exclusively on what can be called the open web.

Those are websites that are not gated by a social media platform because that's where publishers make the most money. So we discuss publicly all of the relationships that ad tech companies have with websites like the domains themselves, not with publishers, but that is just one side of the coin. The other side of the coin is of course the platforms that amplify.

The articles that ended up welcoming people to the website. So if we look at Facebook [00:26:00] pages, for instance, there's a, there's a uncountable amount of Facebook pages that are dedicated to, uh, disinformation fake news, or just regular boring content that you're just like, why would anyone read this? It's there just to make it look like it's a legitimate Facebook page.

Okay. So you go to the Facebook page and you read all this stuff. That's not where the publisher of disinformation makes money. They only make money when the user clicks on the website on the, on the headline and it goes to the website. And so we really focus on that. Um, other platforms for advertisers are like YouTube.

For instance, YouTube is terribly brand unsafe and they have, a woefully I would say embarrassing approach to brand safety. They don't seem to understand that, uh, that it is about impact and not about content. And what I mean by that is if one person had supported the [00:27:00] insurrection, but then they also turned around and they talk about farm animals.

The whole channel is brand unsafe you're still F like an advertiser is still funding. Someone who supported and, and financially benefited from spreading lies about elections. So they're different platforms have different challenges. We could go endlessly. 

Dan Conn: I mean, this is, this is fascinating to me. Yeah.

I mean, so obviously we're, as a company thought leaders were heavy in the world of YouTube and podcasts. I mean, less mess with, um, with, uh, Facebook and things like that. But we, we track a lot of this stuff. You can, you can search for keywords in that stuff. What you're saying is, is that ultimately no matter really what platform you're looking at, if, if you, at any point have produced a piece of content that.

Disinformation. I shouldn't care whether your other content may not be that it's it's you as a content producer. That needs [00:28:00] to be part of the, uh, the ecosystem. 

Check My Ads: Um, not necessarily cut out from the ecosystem, but when we're talking about brand safety, we're talking about impact. So if, if a influencer, a YouTube personality repeatedly spread lies, In order to financially benefit and those lies ended up supporting something was violent and illegal.

Then that's what we're talking about. We're not talking about misinformation, which is the incidental or accidental spreading of, of something that is not true. Um, you know, we're not here to be punitive. We're just talking about the people who are chronically benefiting financially from making the world at an unsafe.

Dan Conn: I mean, I, it sounds, uh, uh, an almost impossible question to ask, but how would you describe the scale of this problem in terms of the number of creators, the dollars that are changing around us? What are we looking about? How much of advertising isn't safe today? 

Check My Ads: That's a great question. I couldn't quantify it, but let's qualify it.[00:29:00] 

How many family members do you have who have been affected by. Disinformation related to COVID-19 by climate change, disinformation by someone, uh, by losing a friend to conspiracy theories or, or something how many people do you know who have been affected by the disinformation crisis and know that every single one of us knows someone who is.

Been on the receiving end of consequences. Due to disinformation that to me speaks volumes. 

Dan Conn: Yeah, I know a bunch, unfortunately we all do. At this point in time. So I, it was really interesting way versus describing this, this challenge. And I'm learning more, every question that the, um, that I'm bringing out here, the platform just to go back to the platforms themselves, but you're saying these are guys that are points of distribution create.

Isn't actually making [00:30:00] money. Well, maybe on YouTube, but not on Facebook when they're producing them. The Facebook page is when they push the traffic to through, and that's when they can actually run the ad. But it seems like the, the way that people are finding this stuff is on these platforms.

So what, what would it take to cut off the problem there?

 How do you, how do you cycle Facebook? What do you think should be done? Yeah, 

Check My Ads: so we've talked to Facebook personally. Um, we've been on like working groups with, uh, Facebook representatives. We've been on working groups with, um, people who advise a national security.

We've been on working groups with academics. Like this is, this is a topic that comes up in every single room. And at the end of the day the people who work at Facebook have to take a stand and they have to, they have to grow a backbone.

I mean, the fact that the Facebook leadership has been allowed to hurt our society so badly for so long, I think is a Testament. [00:31:00] How badly we need leadership within these tech companies and within the tech ecosystem. It's really helpful to see companies like Patagonia come out and really take a hard stand on things like Facebook.

But we understand that most, most, most businesses can't do what Patagonia does. Uh, Facebook and Google have their, but they earned their majority of their revenues from small businesses and small businesses. Don't. Um, don't know, to look into their site placements and they don't, you know, they just they'd go in and they run their ads and they're not disinformation experts.

Most, most people in this world aren't, they shouldn't be expected to be. So, uh, the best we can do is to educate the client and the client is the advertiser and what we hope to do with our. And how we know we're successful at the end of the day is when a marketer comes to us and says, I checked my ads because of your tweet.

Or I told my [00:32:00] friends about Check My Ads Institute. Um, we are, you know, we are educating ourselves about this topic because of your advocacy and, and things happen as a result of our advocacy that. We don't even know, you know, there's, there's conversations happening in rooms that we're not in. And th and, uh, and we have created, we know for a fact that we've created change that, um, that has been the result of just, uh, companies, companies, you know, sitting down marketing team, sitting down, talking about what they've learned from our research and, uh, and enacting their own.

So, what we need at the end of the day at the end of the day is for marketers to take, take their business into their own hands and do what they can with the power that they have. 

Dan Conn: Uh, do you think that the brands are looking, this is as a, more of a [00:33:00] PR issue and that's why the bigger brands are engaging with it because they've gotten a sense more to lose or are they looking at this and as an inherent part of the.

The brand message, that brand values. And does that change based on the marketer? Because I imagine that the Ross there has to be just by the, when you qualified before, how many people believe what's been said, there's gotta be marketers of major brands out there that think the stuff is true, right.

To a degree. 

Check My Ads: Big questions and I love it. So we thought originally that like, yeah, I was going to be the PR, uh, that really got them. No. Um, it turns out that the marketers themselves were coming to us to say, we cannot stomach this. This is not, um, what we signed up for as employees, which is incredibly powerful and it's not what our brand stands for it.

And so. And you got to think like [00:34:00] the companies that we're talking with, like these are decades old companies. Um, summer summer is old as 70 years. They are fortune 500 companies with giant ad spends and giant brand reputations. And as a marketer, it is our job to build a brand with tiny, incremental, uh, relationships over time brands are there.

To build trust. That is the job of a brand. And so when you are talking about your advertising, which is the biggest place where your brand values show up, this is it's critical, it's critical and fortune 500 companies know this because that's how, that's how they grew so big. And so yes, it is a. It is absolutely a brand thing, less of a PR thing, although they do care about that.

Um, the biggest thing that has drived change within these companies, however, [00:35:00] are the marketing teams themselves who say me and my fellow employees don't believe that this is the way our campaigns should be. We have personally been affected by the disinformation crisis. So we don't believe. This is a good thing for our company to do, and a good thing for our team to stand for.

Dan Conn: Fantastic. Fantastic. All right, guys, let me see. We're talking about a disinformation. You talked about challenges of using technology. Like he was to pick it up. Uh, cause it's not just words. How do you define disinformation? Like what's, what's the categorization of it.

Check My Ads: The biggest criticism that we get at Check My Ads from people who don't really understand what we do is, oh, you seem politically biased. So anything that you, uh, politically disagree with, you're just going to call disinformation and we refute that thoroughly by saying, no, listen, this is about journalistic standards versus disinformation.

I personally I'm [00:36:00] Canadian like the, the American. Left versus right. Uh, dichotomy within the political spectrum is, is so fraught for me. And I want to stay away from it just like brands do. So instead what we discuss is, well, these are the journalistic standards. Like are the facts true? Are the, are the sources that you cite legitimate sources and, and are they experts?

And do you have both sides within the story or if not both sides, do you have experts who can, who can bring quantitative or, or empirical evidence to the. To help understand the story. Um, are you publishing in good faith or bad faith? And the disinformation outlets that we, that we are focusing on it, Check My Ads are disinformation outlets that repeatedly spread lies or [00:37:00] narratives that scapegoat marginalized groups and, and they make an incredible profit from doing so, so.

That's how we define it. We, we speak to advertisers about what disinformation really is, how to think about it. And ultimately we don't make that call. It's the advertisers who make. 

Dan Conn: What you're saying, obviously groups here, but that can obviously be very big organizations. Can it be a single creator, an independent creator that, you know, because some creators today incredibly powerful and can make incredible amounts of money.

I know almost media brands unto themselves, but maybe be just a YouTube channel or just a podcast or just one website that they, uh, they represent. Is there any distinction?

Check My Ads: That's an interesting one because the most successful YouTubers are also publishers with, with their own website. So an example of this is Tim pool. Tim Poole is, is, uh, [00:38:00] is a right-wing commentator who has promoted election fraud, disinformation.

Uh, among many other kinds of disinformation over the past few years and has grown his audience to over a million subscribers, uh, and has just recently started a website called Tim caste.com and, and uses his YouTube account to cross-promote his website and, and vice versa. It's a very, very successful marketing campaign and you create successful marketing campaigns by being available on as many, you know, as many channels as possible, or at least, you know, really picking out the channels that you, uh, you think you're going to be the most successful on.

So, uh, so again, the most successful individuals or influencers as you might want to call it, Are running multi-channel efforts. And sometimes by the way, they will, they will game the system so that they reserve their more inflammatory content for say [00:39:00] Twitter, knowing that Twitter reacts differently to, uh, to folks reporting their, their posts versus YouTube versus, um, versus their website versus Instagram.

So what I would recommend is to think about the bigger picture. When it comes to evaluating an influencer. And I would think about what the ultimate impact of their work is, and of what they're putting out into the world. 

Dan Conn: Fantastic. I mean, as you guys say, you're going to go so one-by-one of these organizations, so it's not like you can get on and take on the entire world at once.

You've gotta be selective, but in general, this information. How has this structure? It's something that brands can decide for themselves and should try and search out for themselves and in all areas of their marketing activity, uh, however possible. Um, this has been a really fascinating chat. I think what you guys are doing, uh, is really a [00:40:00] core of what the internet will look like over the next 10 years before it tends into the metaverse and parody knows how that evolves in terms of disinfection.

But, um, I think, um, I think the work you're doing is, uh, really interested in really fantastic. And, uh, it's been a pleasure having you on, is there anything that we should leave the guests with or leave the audience with in terms of the final thought, as they go away thinking about disinformation and how they can take action on it?

Check My Ads: Thank you. Uh, Check My Ads.org. That's check my a D s.org, uh, is the place where you can find us and our reporting. Um, you can sign up as a checkmate if you like. Uh, we, we really appreciate when people come to us with ideas and, uh, questions and, and support in general, uh, we get a lot of hate and, uh, and a lot of love and.[00:41:00] 

That ratio is important to us. So anything, uh, any, anything that your listeners have, uh, is welcome and we're very open about everything we do. So we want to make sure to, to be there for folks if they have any questions. And we just so appreciate your time, Dan. Thank you. 

Dan Conn: Thank you guys. 

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