Wednesday 8 May 2024

US Advertising Firms Advocate For TikTok Following Ban On Chinese Ownership

 America’s largest ad-buying firms collaborated on a promotional video praising TikTok, less than two weeks after President Joe Biden signed a law requiring the platform to sell or shutter over concerns about its intersection with the Chinese Communist Party.

“We’re TikTok, of course dentsu, Havas, IPG Mediabrands, Horizon Media, Publicis Groupe and GroupM loaned us their media superstar talent to tell you all why your brand should be on TikTok,” the social media company said on LinkedIn on May 3, saying the brands’ executives were “setting the tone on how TikTok is the key to scaling your brand’s success – and, of course, jumping on a cool trend you might have seen around.”

The video featured Dentsu executive Cara Lewis literally singing TikTok’s praises, while Publicis Groupe’s Shelby Saville pretended to cry because she was so moved by videos of dogs on the app and said “TikTok reaches 170 million monthly active US users. That’s a lot of eyeballs… TikTok is more than just Gen Z.”

Horizon Media, which bills itself as the “largest U.S. media agency” had executive Dave Campanelli toss a football while discussing how it helped his company reach sports fans.

TikTok CEO Shou Zi Chew has suggested the firm’s Chinese owner, ByteDance, will refuse to sell its stake, and that it will instead challenge the law in court on constitutional grounds. The law gives the firm one year to find a new owner.

None of the ad-buying firms would discuss why U.S. companies were promoting the Chinese-owned firm despite the new law and the national security concerns. A spokesman for GroupM declined to comment.

The advertising industry has been eager to use its heft — assembled through other people’s money in the form of companies purchasing ads through them — to take activist stands in other instances.

Horizon Media’s website displays a full-screen pledge to DEI before a reader can access its actual content.


The industry has advocated for systems that blackball certain media outlets, mostly conservative ones, on the theory that they are “unsafe” for the client brands because they could be criticized for doing business with them. A Publicis subsidiary allegedly pressed clients not to advertise on Xbased on data that falsely said it was unsafe following Elon Musk’s purchase.

The House Judiciary Committee said some advertising firms may have violated anti-trust laws — despite nominally being competitors — by working together as the Global Alliance for Responsible Media (GARM) to prohibit any advertising on media outlets that are deemed to convey “misinformation.” The group is affiliated with the World Economic Forum, and “misinformation” often means journalism that is out-of-sync with official government lines on issues like the coronavirus lab-leak theory. The Committee said it has obtained evidence that GARM officials were actually targeting specific media outlets, including The Daily Wire and Fox News, based on their politics.

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