Reach, IBM and Xandr partner on Covid-19 blocklist solution

Reach, IBM and Xandr partner on Covid-19 blocklist solution

Reach, publisher of The Mirror and The Express has teamed up with IBM and Xandr to launch Mantis, an AI-powered solution to the keyword-blocking conundrum which is draining publishers of advertising revenues.

According to the trio, Mantis is estimated to free up at least 70% of the national and regional publisher content that is currently blocked due to advertiser blocklists, many of which have put a blanket ban on ads appearing alongside any content containing words such as “coronavirus” and “Covid-19″.

Powered by IBM Watson’s Natural Language Processing, Mantis verifies how safe news content is for brands. Advertising can then be instructed to appear only alongside those news stories categorised as neutral and positive, including stories related to the ongoing coronavirus pandemic.

This means positive or informative stories about subjects such as staying fit at home or celebrating frontline workers will no longer be inadvertently blocked.

“There’s no reason why a brand shouldn’t want to have an advert placed next to a positive story, like one about sports and media personality Gary Lineker donating two months wages to the Red Cross to help fight Covid-19,” said Benjamin Pheloung, general manager for Mantis.

The technology is available through Xandr’s adtech platform and will include inventory across a collective of UK publishers, enabling brands to achieve national scale.

Daniel Clayman, VP & managing director, Northern Europe at Xandr added: “Xandr operates in support of trusted newsrooms and premium advertisers around the globe and proactively seeks out sophisticated tools, like Mantis, for our clients to navigate disruptions to their business.

“Now more than ever, we’re proud to put our platform to work for the news industry.”

Last month, national and regional publishers including News UK, The Guardian, Reach Plc and JPI Media penned an open letter calling on advertisers to remove blocklists from trusted newsbrands.

Newsbrands are expected to lose £50 million in advertising revenue from April to June, as numerous ads are prevented from appearing alongside online stories with the word ‘coronavirus’ in them.

While the intention of blocklists is to stop adverts appearing against inappropriate or harmful content, they can also penalise publications for producing vital journalism and covering contentious issues.

Overzealous keyword blocking has been an ongoing issue of contention for digital publishers, with millions already lost in ad revenue as brands and agencies block terms such as “sperm whale”, “shoot”, “Star Wars” and even “Pepper Pig”.

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