Your Consumers Are Looking at Where Your Ads Live

Context matters, according to Pinterest's CMO

doom phone
Negative online spaces are draining your brand dollars. Kacy Burdette
Headshot of Andréa Mallard

More nights last spring than I’d like to admit, I found myself doomscrolling: mindlessly thumbing through my feeds full of scary statistics, grim updates and fear-inducing ads. It was exhausting, and did nothing to help my mounting anxiety.

Turns out, it’s not helping brands, either. Anger and divisiveness may encourage people to scroll—and troll—but it doesn’t get them to buy. The latest research shows that negative environments make people less likely to remember, less likely to trust and less likely to purchase from brands. In other words, negative online spaces are draining your brand dollars.

There’s long been a debate among CMOs about whether context actually matters. Research says it does. In a Covid-19 world, ad adjacency matters more than ever. Gone are the days when people will turn a blind eye to the environment in which your messaging appears. As one research participant put it: “When I see brands in negative and unsafe places, I start to lose my confidence and trust in them that they come from a good place. As a result, I’m less likely to purchase from them.” 

So what does this mean for brands? How do you evade the negativity tax? 

Find a more positive place online

The majority of 2,000 survey participants agree that if a brand shows up next to negative content, they assume the brand has endorsed it. As a result, their perception of the brand decreases. Showing up in safe, positive spaces is no longer just a moralistic argument. Your brand can’t afford to show up in a negative environment.

Keep in mind that platform positivity starts with policy. The most positive places online don’t happen by accident—they happen because of proactive policy decisions made by leadership. Don’t just look to the user-generated content to determine a platform’s sentiment. It’s just as important to consider what the platform doesn’t allow. 

It is an industry effort to improve digital safety and create positive advertising surfaces that don’t compromise on effectiveness.

Imbue your ads with positivity 

Give your ads a positive spin to boost business results. See it as an opportunity to unlock even more positive creative, and as a result, more effective advertising.

Earn their vote

This fall, popular social networks and online video platforms will run political advertising that your brand will have to compete with. This content will also likely crowd auctions and make your ads more expensive. In other words: Political campaigns on other platforms will dilute your ad spend. 

Be strategic with where you advertise this fall. Don’t monetize election-related content. Your brand doesn’t have to compete with election advertising and your content doesn’t have to compete with election messages. 

Positive ads in positive spaces drive positive performance

People are tired of toxic spaces online. And it’s no longer just a consumer-centered argument: When ads show up in a more positive environment online, they can drive impact at every stage of the purchase funnel. Whether you’re building brand awareness, consumer trust, or driving conversions, it pays to be positive. Literally. 


Andréa Mallard is chief marketing officer at Pinterest, where she oversees the global marketing and creative teams responsible for telling the Pinterest story to Pinners and advertisers all over the world.
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