Today in Manchester an explosion at the Ariana Grande concert at Manchester Arena has left at least 19 dead, with 50 people injured. There were also reports of kids and parents being separated from each other in the panic to leave the venue.
As I read the first news article I came across on it, the video at the top, a video from a concert goer posted to Twitter showing panicked concert-goers leaving the stadium, started to play, but not before an ad. What a great advertising opportunity. Human suffering always attracts a crowd. So who was potentially benefitting financially from the latest instalment in human tragedy?
On news.com.au, Visa wearables are now ‘pool-party-prank proof’. On Sydney Morning Herald, the first ad was for Vodafone and the new Samsung 8, and the second time I looked it was Tempur benefitting. On Mamamia it was the ‘Save the Date to Vaccinate’ app.
I understand that this isn’t how it’s meant to be portrayed. Advertising dollars keep news websites afloat which is why we have ads before every possible clip. Magical technological gremlins lurk in the background selecting ads at random, placing them where lengthy and lucrative contracts have specified.
But imagine that your loved one lived in or was visiting Manchester, or any city that has seen this sort of tragedy in recent times. Imagine you knew they were at the concert and you turn to the internet trying to find out as much as you can because you haven’t been able to contact them. Maybe they dropped their phone on the way out. Maybe they’re one of the 19 dead. And as you turn to the news for knowledge, you first have to see a man diving through a pool, confident in the knowledge that his spending ability is protected by his Visa wearables. Or listen to Vodafone plug the new Samsung Galaxy 8.
When the Uber pricing model meant that people were charged huge fares during the Sydney siege in 2014 they were lambasted. This is no different. Terrorist attacks, mass shootings, genocide, war, death, destruction or human desperation of any kind should not be a vehicle for product placement.
News websites need to find a way of disabling advertisements on stories about human suffering. The research is there about how ads persuade us and impact our decisions. It might be incidental and out of the control of individual businesses, but no business should profit out of the reporting of human suffering.