The Legal Beat
Law School Advertises On Breitbart Story Slamming Women Studying Math
Posted on Monday January 09, 2017
UPDATE (1/9/17 9:13 p.m.): The school has addressed the issue… now it’s on other schools to make sure they’ve done the same.
This is one of the cagiest ad campaigns a law school has come up with in awhile. Take a Breitbart News story deriding women in STEM programs and subtly hint that, hey, maybe you might like law school instead.
All right, that’s obviously not at all what’s going on. But no one should be blaming UC Hastings for their unfortunate ad campaign. Indeed, Hastings is probably as shocked as anyone to find their school associated in any way with the drivel that Breitbart churns out on a daily basis, let alone to find their science, health policy and law program on a post blasting women in STEM education.
Welcome to the perils of programmatic advertising!
While this is probably causing more than a few headaches at Hastings — where they’re working with their Masters of Science, Health Policy & Law partners at UCSF to address the issue — it shouldn’t. They’ve got to look at it as a whole “crisis/opportunity” thing. If this hadn’t happened, they may never have known all the places their ads show up.
Frankly, while Hastings drew the short straw of being the first one anyone noticed with an out of place ad (well, maybe not the first), all law schools should take this episode as a lesson on how to protect their brands from advertising mishaps, because Hastings is surely not alone out there.
In fact, a recent New York Times article looked specifically at advertising on Breitbart News and the efforts of online activists to help companies take back control of their ads — because a lot of companies were unwittingly advertising on Breitbart that really didn’t want to be there:
The activists’ back-and-forth with companies reveals a fog of confusion surrounding online advertising. Many organizations have no idea that their ads may end up next to content they find abhorrent.
You might blame this — in part — on robots.
Of course it’s the robots. It’s not that SS-D2 just loves neo-Nazi sites, it’s that a series of algorithms decide what programmatic ads get placed where. Most advertisers never bother to police who’s getting that fraction of a penny for hosting their ad.
That said, there are ways of keeping your company from appearing on less-than-desirable sites, it just takes a little work:
[Joshua Zeitz, vice president of corporate communications at the ad-tech company AppNexus] pointed out that brand-name companies had already figured out how to keep their ads from flowing onto porn sites, because “you really don’t want your ad for a breakfast cereal next to a hard-core pornographic video,” and so “there are tools in place that allow companies to control where their ads go.” A company can block a specific site like Breitbart News from its ad buy. Or it might pick a “white list” of sites that align with its values.
And that’s where law schools need help from the masses. The activist group Sleeping Giants has a plan of action for raising business awareness of their own advertising:
The group’s Twitter page offers a simple set of instructions to anyone who wants to follow suit. Step 1: “Go to Breitbart and take a screenshot of an ad next to some of their content.” Step 2: “Tweet the screenshot to the company with a polite, nonoffensive note.”
So, keep your eyes peeled for law schools advertising on sites like Breitbart and follow the Sleeping Giants plan. In fact, loop in Above the Law whenever you see something like this, because we’ll make sure to get it to the school’s attention.
UPDATE: Here’s the latest —
How to Destroy the Business Model of Breitbart and Fake News [New York Times]
Joe Patrice is an editor at Above the Law and co-host of Thinking Like A Lawyer. Feel free to email any tips, questions, or comments. Follow him on Twitter if you’re interested in law, politics, and a healthy dose of college sports news.