The Student News Site of Tarrant County College

The Collegian

The Student News Site of Tarrant County College

The Collegian

The Student News Site of Tarrant County College

The Collegian

College ad seen on Breitbart

A TCC banner ad appears on the alt-right news source Breitbart News. A screenshot activist pointed it out in a tweet. Twitter

By Katelyn Needham/ editor-in-chief

A TCC banner ad appears on the alt-right news source Breitbart News. A screenshot activist pointed it out in a tweet.

A Twitter account informed TCC that one of the college’s ads was seen on the alt-right website Breitbart News, a news source that critics associate with hate speech and discrimination. 

President Donald Trump’s chief strategist Steve Bannon formerly ran the news source. Headlines like “Birth Control Makes Women Unattractive and Crazy” and “Bill Kristol: Republican Spoiler, Renegade Jew” have appeared on the website.

The account TAS467 tweeted, “Are you aware @TCCollege ads are appearing on the hate site Breitbart? Don’t hate, please remove! @slpng_giants @TCCthecollegian” with a screenshot of the TCC ad next to an article published on the site.

The account is a follower of a campaign started by a group calling themselves the Sleeping Giants. The Giants were founded in attempt to stop ad revenue from going to Breitbart.

The Giants’ Twitter page states their mission: “We are trying to stop racist websites by stopping their ad dollars. Many companies don’t even know it’s happening. It’s time to tell them.”

Since their start in November 2016, the screenshot activists say they have gotten 1,132 companies and organizations to promise to take their ads off the website. Among them are 70 colleges including Oklahoma City University, the University of California-Berkeley and the University of Chicago.

TCC, like other schools and businesses, uses “programmatic ads” that rely on specific demographics and algorithms to target an ideal audience. The company TCC uses for advertisements is The Ward Group.

“We have various digital elements, display banners both mobile and desktop,” Ward Group president Rob Enright said. “The general targeting for TCC is adults 18 to 34. Over and above all of that, we have retargeting in place, which means if someone visits the TCC website and then goes to a page somewhere, they might be served a TCC ad anywhere they go on the internet.”

Other aspects of the ad targeting include behavior targets and geo-targeting specific to the Tarrant County area. Because of this system of ad targeting, it is not possible to predict every single website where a TCC ad will be displayed.

“We only work with ‘A’ rated networks to ensure brand safety,” Enright said. “There are a lot of things that are industry standards for brand safety, and there is a blacklist option that can be incorporated into the ad campaign.”

The Ward Group does not invest money directly into sites but rather into the ad campaign itself that runs ads based on the target demographics. Blacklisting a website means the ad campaign would not display ads on a particular site deemed not brand-appropriate.

“We’re in higher education,” TCC executive communications and public relations director Suzanne Groves said. “We wouldn’t do anything with an alcohol company, a tobacco company or anything pornography-related or anything overly sexually inappropriate. Certainly nothing that would line up with a political point of view or a religious point of view. We want to keep it very neutral, so there is not an unintended consequence.”

TCC only selects ads that appear in print, television and radio. The target demographics and the ad campaign programs run the online ads. Breitbart News is not currently on the list of websites that TCC has blacklisted despite being a political news outlet, Groves said.

“We can blacklist websites if they aren’t brand safe and we feel so inclined to, but for one, it is hard to know what all of those are,” Groves said. “It’s a slippery slope because for every person that hates, for example, Breitbart, there’s someone else that loves Breitbart. This is kind of the new world of advertising.”

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