Jamie at Mailwatch asked a while ago if online commenters could create a toxic environment for brands. It's something I've wondered about for a while. It's all very well creating traffic for your website by allowing people to be as offensive as they like - but does there come a point when a line gets crossed, and advertisers on those pages don't want their brands alongside something truly unpleasant?
You may remember the other day I wrote about Rod Liddle's fans*, and included this snippet from an online forum discussion at the British Democracy Forum about one of his columns:
I emailed John Lewis to ask them if they felt their brand belonged alongside that kind of discussion, and they responded today:
Dear Mr Vowl
Thanks for your email . The advertisement has now been removed and we wont be advertising on this website in the future .We have a rigorous screening process for where our advertisements appear , but on this occasion, it would appear that this inappropriate placement has slipped through the net .We are reviewing how this happened currently .
John Lewis Direct
I had thought it was most likely a genuine mistake from the company concerned and had wanted to alert them to placement they might not agree with. It's tempting to advertise on certain platforms but when your brand appears alongside views that are verging on the extreme, then that might change people's opinions. In the end, advertisers will decide where they want to put their brand names and whether certain discussions are toxic or not for them.
* Incidentally Liddle has, today, done something so shit-in-the-eyes bad on his Spectator blog that it's done the impossible: it's made me take Marcus Brigstocke's side. It's so dismal that it really doesn't deserve a link, but luckily I have the power of the screengrab:
I wonder if Spectator advertisers want their brands alongside something that bad? "Funny things said: 0" - oh, the irony.