- Amazon reportedly pulled its Q4 ad spending from Bloomberg on Oct. 16 after the media company published a story alleging that the Chinese government had hacked into Amazon and Apple's hardware by "embedding microchips into third-party motherboards," according to Business Insider and Buzzfeed News. Amazon and Apple executives have vehemently denied the story and asked Bloomberg to retract it, but the news organization has stood by its report.
- Interpublic Group-owned Initiative, Amazon's media buyer, pulled the brand's ad spend on Bloomberg, but ads are still running on the publisher's site, according to reports. Amazon also later purchased a smaller ad buy on Bloomberg TV for the remainder of 2018.
- Business Insider, in its analysis, found an Amazon Prime ad promoting the upcoming show "Homecoming," which stars Julia Roberts. It appeared on Bloomberg's site on Oct. 24, at the top of a story about Uber. The ad was placed via Google's "programmatic pipes," which run ads on hundreds of publisher sites, meaning the ad was not a direct purchase between Amazon and Bloomberg, according to Business Insider.
In the "fake news" era, media outlets continue to face scrutiny about the accuracy of their reporting, and Amazon pulling ads from Bloomberg over a report the company denies highlights how marketers are taking more extreme steps to hold publishers accountable.
The news also illustrates marketers' continued struggles with transparency in their programmatic advertising buys, with Amazon ads continuing to appear on Bloomberg despite the e-commerce giant reportedly enacting a freeze. Marketers are attracted by programmatic's efficiency and ability to target ads across multiple sites based on consumer browsing behavior. But, as the Amazon-Bloomberg issue shows, brands often lack control over where their ads will appear.
By 2019, nearly two-thirds of all digital display ads are projected to be programmatic, reaching $84.9 billion, according to Publicis Groupe Zenith estimates. Amazon has been a big programmatic spender in an effort to dominate online shopping. With more than half of consumers beginning product searches on Amazon, the company is embracing programmatic to more efficiently reach large swaths of online consumers. In Q1 2018, Amazon accounted for 10% of the spend of the top 50 programmatic advertisers, according to a MediaRadar analysis. Amazon spent 1.5 times more than Microsoft, the next-biggest spender in the category.
More companies are pulling ads as a means to protest the content running on publishers' sites and on platforms. Last year, AT&T, Johnson & Johnson and others pulled their YouTube ads over concerns that the Google-owned platform wasn't adequately protecting their ads from appearing next to offensive content, such as that featuring hate speech. Several advertisers pulled their ads from Laura Ingraham's Fox News show after she had a spat with a survivor of the Parkland, Florida, school shooting.