Advertisers are financing COVID misinformation — why PE firms are eyeing agencies — Brunswick's bet

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Hi and welcome to this weekly edition of Insider Advertising, where we track the big stories in media and advertising. I'm Lucia Moses, deputy editor here.

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This week:

Anti-vaccine protests US

Advertisers are enabling misinformation

More than 4,315 brands ran ads on sites with COVID misinformation, according to new NewsGuard research. The key points:

  • They're a who's who of corporate America — and even include some advertisers that are directly seeking to promote vaccines, like Pfizer, Walmart, and the CDC.
  • The research further illustrates the unintended consequences of programmatic advertising — and of the role advertisers and adtech companies like Google and The Trade Desk play in enabling the spread of misinformation.
  • Solutions aren't simple because of the multiple actors involved in digital ad placement.
  • Some say advertisers need to take charge of where their dollars are going, while another camp says the burden is on adtech companies to fix the problem.

Read more: More than 4,000 advertisers including Pfizer, Walmart, and even the CDC ran ads alongside vaccine misinformation

Mark Penn MDC.JPG

Why private equity is pushing into agencies

If one thing is clear about 2021, it's that it's poised to be a big year for deal-making — and private equity firms are poised to play a bigger role than ever. A couple data points:

Financial buyers are warming to areas like e-commerce and data analytics, and traditional acquirers like ad holding companies are pausing deals during the downturn.

For some agencies, PE funding can help them react quickly to business trends and expand accordingly.

Still, it's easy to imagine cultural clashes ensue if PE firms, with their reputation for being profit-driven, go into creative-heavy firms like design and production firms.

Read more: Private equity firms are looking to snap up ad agencies as the pandemic grounds traditional buyers

Alan Parker, Brunswick Group

Brunswick's gamble

Sean Czarnecki checked in on financial communications firm Brunswick Group, which is making slew of hires in a bet on digital and consulting services.

It's another example of the lines between ad and consulting industries blurring as firms look to new areas for growth.

Some insiders questioned Brunswick's ability to pay the high salaries necessary to compete with established firms like Teneo, though. 

Read more: PR firm Brunswick Group is scooping up execs from companies like Edelman and Grey as it tries to become the 'McKinsey of PR'

Other stories we're reading:

Thanks for reading, and see you next week.

— Lucia


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