Digital advertising worth US$153m spent across sites with anti-Asian hate speech content, finds Nielsen

A recent study by Nielsen conducted between 1 January 2020 to 1 April 2021 found that US$153 million in digital advertising was spent across websites that published articles including hate speech against Asians in the first quarter of 2021. Meanwhile, ad campaigns from a dozen Fortune 500 companies and at least 66 brands were found adjacent to content including anti-Asian hate speech. Additionally, there were 38.1 million visitors to digital news sites that published articles flagged as including hate speech against Asians in the first quarter of 2021. 

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According to the study, brands have unknowingly placed their ads next to approximately 1,280 pieces of content containing hate speech against people of Asian descent and 5,000 of the ads were placed next to Asian hate speech in the last year. Through the use of AI, Nielsen also found that more than 250 ad campaigns were impacted.

The campaigns ran on URLS where brands, including household names, were adjacent to content that featured the use of racist, disparaging, stigmatising, and xenophobic terminology and conspiracies related to coronavirus origins, Asians and China.

About 20% of the 1,280 URLs were published in 2021 and the hate speech was funded by several ad categories, with media companies contributing US$29.7 million, followed by department stores (US$6 million), apparel (US$4.1 million), and travel (US$629,000). The ads appeared alongside articles containing keywords including "Wuhan virus", "China", "Chinese flu", "CCP virus", "cover-up", "hacking" and "blame China". According to Nielsen, reference to "China Bioweapon" peaked this year while content that spread "Blame China" was still in use during the first quarter of 2021.

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That said, while the Center for the Study of Hate and Extremism estimates anti-Asian hate crimes have increased 150% over the past year, Nielsen noted that ad spend in digital content with hate speech declined overall in the first quarter 2021. Ever since it was revealed that COVID-19 was discovered in China last year, anti-Asian hate has been on the rise, especially in recent times. In the US, Asians have become victims of violent hate crimes and the Atlanta spa shooting in March this year also left six individuals of Asian descent dead. As a result, the Stop Asian Hate movement has been on the rise to help combat racism.

Brands worldwide have taken a stand against anti-Asian hate. Nike, Converse, and Tommy Hilfiger, for example, have shown support for the Asian community and condemned racism against them. Tommy Hilfiger also said it is shocked and saddened by the growing violence against the Asian population and will use its platform to support ending discrimination and racism in all its forms.

Meanwhile, Netflix has also shared a video dedicated to celebrating Asian and Asian American individuals. Its YouTube caption said "Asians deserve better than the erasure, caricatures, and stereotypes" perpetuated by the entertainment industry. The video was also shared on its other social media channels including LinkedIn, Instagram, and Twitter.

Last month, MARKETING-INTERACTIVE also spoke to Bling Empire star Kane Lim on the rise of the anti-Asian sentiment in the US. Listen to the podcast here.

MARKETING-INTERACTIVE’s Adland's Diversity & Inclusion Index recognises Asia's change-makers who are pushing the boundaries and cultivating a culture for tomorrow. Nominate case studies of your D&I initiatives for workforce in Asia today!

Photo courtesy: 123RF

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