Positive Wins

Avoiding Negative Media Environments Doesn’t Mean Sacrificing Sales

By: Dana Lytle


Let’s all conspire to make sure what we say and how we say it doesn’t get undermined by where brand messages show up.”

I’m a positive guy: as a business leader, a husband, a parent, a friend, and in every other aspect of my life. There’s been plenty of doom and gloom to go around lately, but despite the odds, I’ve done my best to keep the sense of optimism and positivity that’s always helped me stay productive and happy (most of the time).

As a design and advertising guy, I also think the power of positivity is underrated when it comes to where brands choose to show up. When I stumbled upon this Pinterest research report "It Pays to Be Positive," I was glad to see some serious data backing up my belief.

The research found that negative environments make people less likely to remember, trust, and purchase from brands. In a world of negativity, especially online, brands should look for bright spots when it comes to ad placements.

While the research is a nice proof point, this is another case of common sense being good enough for me. I’ve been around long enough to notice an increasing trend toward the negative. Social networks that start as fun places to share family updates, vacation photos, and funny dance challenges somehow always get sucked into a vortex of political fighting and click-bait disinformation.

By a stroke of bad luck (or Silicon Valley “genius”), those same platforms now dominate the advertising world. Brands are practically forced to advertise dream vacations, fishing boats, and ski gear amid all the bickering, trolling, shaming, and doom-inducing headlines these platforms earn their eyeballs from. It’s hard to imagine a worse environment for making a good impression on an audience.

The current state of affairs really has me thinking about the role that context—and a positive environment in general–can have on how audiences receive marketing messages. Planet works with high-integrity passion-based brands—primarily the products people use while enjoying their free time. And we take a lot of pride in the work we create for our partners. We labor over every little detail of our final product, making sure design, copy, music, and talent are all perfectly in tune. I hate to see one of our “ad babies”—so thoughtfully nurtured along the way—get thrown into negativity-laden environments. If Facebook were a preschool, would you send your toddler there?

If you’re a high-integrity brand leader, I hope you’ll join me in trying to make more mindful decisions this year. We can all clearly see the problem, but we’ll need to act together to create a solution.

A few things to consider as you face some tough choices:


Like me, you probably don’t need fancy research to know that you’re better off sticking to more positive environments when telling your brand story. You already believe your brand deserves better. But you can rest easy knowing that your customers want you to do better, too, and that by prioritizing positivity, you’re earning their respect and hopefully their patronage. That Pinterest research I mentioned earlier found that 2 in 3 adults agree it’s a brand’s responsibility to advertise in safe, positive places and avoid negative content.


I don’t want to come across as pollyannaish here. Despite their flaws, there are lots of big platforms that can efficiently deliver results even if there’s a veil of negativity attached. Just be more open-minded and thoughtful of where you’re spending the bulk of your media budget.

You still need to achieve reach and scale, and premium, positive, brand-safe environments don’t come cheap. But consider how you’re balancing things out. Rather than always opting for the cheapest solution (like low-quality, low-control programmatic inventory), start by allocating a portion of your budget to more mindful placements. You might be surprised by the results. And you might find value in prioritizing the long-term perception of your brand over the short-term allure of cheap CPMs.


You can’t fault your Media partner for wanting to guide you towards quick win, value-priced inventory. But no one will advocate for your brand’s hard-won reputation the way you can.

Explain your intent to find more positive environments and tactics in 2022, and challenge your team to build a plan with that in mind. But also rethink your own measures of success. Show them that you understand you’ll likely have to sacrifice some short-term efficiency to gain long-term brand trust and relevance. (I wrote a piece for AdAge that digs a little deeper into the pitfalls of short-termism, too.)

And if you find that your Media agency’s not on the same page, we’d be happy to introduce you to like-minded Media pros who take a more mindful approach.

If you’ve read this far, I’m confident you’re a high-integrity brand leader who got into this business to make your customers’ lives better. And I believe you know it hurts your chances to earn their trust and lifetime loyalty if you don’t protect the positive image you’ve worked so hard to build. Let’s all conspire to make sure what we say and how we say it doesn’t get undermined by where brand messages show up.

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