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Politics, Musk and ‘Brand Safety’

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November 5, 2022 1:52 p.m.
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At the center of the escalating Twitter bonfire this week is the issue of “brand safety.” Musk and Republican leaders are now complaining that “woke” activists are breaking Twitter and pushing it toward financial collapse with calls for boycotts. That’s not what’s happening. Not even close. Are there various activists groups pushing for advertisers to pause or drop Twitter advertising? Yes. But they’re not the real problem. The issue is “brand safety,” which I thought I would dig into because it has implications far beyond the Twitter train wreck. It’s at the heart of many issues in political media.

First, how do I know anything about this? Why am I an expert? Before TPM moved to a subscription model, brand and influencer advertising were at the heart of our business. Because of that, for upwards of fifteen years I had to deeply immerse myself not only in the advertising business generally but in the niche of advertising in political media. It was a huge part of my work for years and I had to understand it really, really well — because the existence of TPM depended on it.

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