Ending Digital Discrimination | Skyy Vodka

If this entry was a published article, chances are that it’d get blacklisted – because it uses words like “gay,” “sexuality,” and “trans.” The industry has created a tension where we want to feature LGBTQ people in ads, but are systemically annihilating queer media with biased brand safety algorithms.

Project Overview

Did you know that if this entry was a published article, the chances are, it would get blocked? That’s because it uses words like “gay,” “sexuality”, “lesbian”, and “transgender.” Media can be a powerful force for good, but it can also be part of the problem. Advertisers use keyword exclusion lists to keep brands safe, but 73% of LGBTQ community news items are incorrectly flagged, resulting in inadvertently diverting media dollars from LGBTQ publishers and journalists. This campaign is about how SKYY Vodka intentionally redirected media dollars specifically into the hands of those marginalized publishers.

Background

Advertising has ignored the importance of human safety in the quest of brand safety. Brands have hundreds to over a thousand words on exclusion lists, to ensure they appear alongside content that reflects complementary topics or brand values, or avoid those in conflict. Poorly applied keyword exclusion lists have cost journalism an estimated $2.8 billion by blocking safe content that is incorrectly flagged as problematic. The industry has created a tension where we want to feature LGBTQ people in ads, but are annihilating queer media with biased brand safety algorithms.

Words like “sexuality,” “queer,” “transgender” and “gay” can be used in ways that are sexual and discriminatory, or in ways that are empowering and affirming. And the content in pieces that discuss things like “bullying” or “violence” can differ in their message from article to article. An aggressive keyword exclusion list lacks the flexibility to identify the difference.

Idea

As much as 73% of neutral or positive LGBTQ and Black online news has been incorrectly flagged by this algorithmic bias in media buying.

While the industry grapples with how to better represent queer people, SKYY Vodka has done that for decades. (For example, it was the first spirit brand to feature a lesbian couple in advertising in 2015.) If being an LGBTQ ally means applying power to promote equity, being an allied brand means using the power of dollars to make sure queer stories are told.

Our idea was to intentionally place every dollar towards making sure queer media prevails. How did we do that? By creating the world’s first inclusive private marketplace (PMP) – The LGBTQ PMP.

SKYY Vodka worked with over a dozen queer-owned and operated publications and larger publishers who positive cover LGBTQ rights. The partners included the first queer publisher in the U.S., The Advocate, as well as publications such as, The Guardian (their LGBTQ content), them., Buzzfeed (their LGBTQ page), Out Magazine, Vox Media and many more.

The LGBTQ PMP aggregated these publishers into one negotiated inclusion list so that SKYY Vodka supports marginalized publications as well as the content and journalism.

Through our intentional media investment, we aimed to end a form of digital censorship. They also have guaranteed brand safety standards for advertisers.

Execution

On each of the media owners, we ensured words like transgender, bi, bisexual, drag, gay, and lesbian were not blocked, to fund their stories. We created custom assets with SKYY Vodka’s spokesperson, RuPaul’s Drag Race superstar Dusty Ray Bottoms, to create contextual alignment.

We ran these banners across LGBTQ and Black stories to fund journalism, reinforcing that digital discrimination can be ended one brand dollar at a time.

Awards & recognition
Festival of Media Global 2020
Festival of Media Global 2020 Silver - Best Use of Digital Media
Festival of Media Global 2020
Festival of Media Global 2020 Highly Commended - Best Distribution and Amplification of Content