SAN JOSE, CA: Digital ads appearing next to "objectionable content" – including material that is "fake", "distressing" and "hateful" – risk alienating over 40% of a brand's potential audience, according to a survey from the CMO Council.

Based on a poll of 2,000 adults in North America and the UK, the study found that 37.3% would "change the way I think of the brand when making a decision to buy" if its marketing messages were shown adjacent to undesirable output.

A further 10.5% were willing to "boycott or not do business with that brand", while 9% were likely to "be vocal and complain or raise issues about this." (For more details, read WARC's report: Why content safety matters for brands.)

These figures help quantify growing worries about ads loaded alongside inappropriate content – a problem that has recently impacted web platforms from YouTube, Google's video hub, to, the right-wing news site.

"CMOs and brand advertisers are increasingly concerned about various aspects of digital and programmatic advertising, including concerns about their ads showing up next to offensive content," said Donovan Neale-May, Executive Director of the CMO Council. 

"This consumer survey demonstrates that those concerns are well-founded. Advertising placed next to objectionable content is damaging to a brand while ads that accompany more trusted content and media are more accepted." 

The CMO Council's analysis – forming part of a wider research effort into brand safety conducted with news provider Dow Jones – revealed that 75% of contributors were "worried about the growth in the number of fake news and bad content sites" 

An even higher proportion of the panel, the study added, were "irritated with how easily they wind up on those sites", be it because of links on social media, unwanted pop-ups, and so on.

In pointing to some prospective solutions for brand custodians worried about this trend, the report stated that 63% of interviewees "responded more positively to ads run in trusted media channels."

Another 60% of participants agreed that offensive material has already led them to consume greater amounts of content from "trusted, well-known news sources and established media channels."

Data sourced from CMO Council; additional content by WARC staff