Jezebel is one of the biggest feminist blogs on the Internet. It’s part of Gawker Media, a network famous for pushing the limits of "newsworthy." But its advertising staff has a different attitude: it recently rejected an ad supporting abortion rights.
A women’s rights group, UltraViolet, discovered this policy last week when it tried to place a video ad about myths around abortion in America. Jezebel, and the Gawker network, doesn’t accept advertising on some controversial political issues.
Gawker's advertising and editorial departments are separate, meaning Jezebel writers had no say or involvement in the matter. But ad staffers there made it clear that they wouldn't accept this 60-second spot on the Gawker network.
"My management team is not allowing us to accept ads surrounding very specific politically focused topics like abortion," an advertising representative at Gawker wrote in an email to UltraViolet's representatives, which the group then shared with Vox.
When UltraViolet's ad representative pressed on the issue — and the fact that Jezebel writers cover similar issues frequently – the same advertising representative responded, "While Jezebel’s editorial content is very feminist, our advertising management team tends to be more conservative on the advertising we can accept."
Other sites have rejected abortion-specific ads
This isn't the first rejection letter that UltraViolet has received: Google and YouTube have also declined to run the group's ads. The group is bumping up against a sometimes-policy across the web that amounts to a certain irony: All of these platforms run controversial content for free, but paid advertising is a different story.
The UltraViolet ad that YouTube rejected was slightly different, but was also about abortion.
"Let’s pretend that life is perfect and everything happens exactly as you planned," the 30-second spot begins, running through a flowchart. Get a perfect job? Check. Go on a great date? Check. Condoms never break? Check.
"Let's end the pretending," it continues. "Condoms break. Mistakes are made. Abortion is a part of real life."
Other sites, including Comedy Central and Match, accepted the ad as part of UltraViolet's $250,000 ad buy this past summer.
Gawker: standard policy to avoid "controversial" ads
Vox followed up with Gawker to clarify the Jezebel policy. A Gawker spokesperson added the following comments, in an emailed statement:
Gawker Media's longstanding business policy has been to avoid controversial issue advocacy advertising of any stripe — a common practice across a wide variety of media companies. When a Gawker Media sales staffer used the term "conservative" to describe this approach, she used it in the sense of "avoiding controversial ads," rather than endorsing a political agenda. This policy has nothing to do with the editorial content of Jezebel and our other sites, which are vehicles for discussions and free expression unmatched on the internet. If Ultraviolet would like to reach Jezebel's readers free of charge, we encourage them to contact the editorial team, which will independently exercise its judgment and proceed accordingly.
Karin Roland, the vice president of campaigns at Ultraviolet, argues that the ad shouldn't be viewed as "controversial" — and that multiple other sites, including Hearst's Elle magazine, have allowed the group to make a buy. (I reached out to Hearst to confirm this, but did not hear back as of Tuesday morning).
"This is a medical procedure that is fully legal, highly safe, and incredibly common," Roland says. "It really shows the problem in our culture around abortion, and demonstrates the type of stigma that still exists."