“..One of the key figures involved in an anonymous online campaign calling for advertisers to boycott the Seven Network, radio station 2GB and Sky News runs a consultancy business focused on working with brands and media buyers.
A former Fairfax Media and News Corp sales executive with 30 years of experience in the industry, Denise Shrivrell owns and operates MediaScope, a small advisory business with no staff.
Contacted yesterday about her links to US online activist group Sleeping Giants, Ms Shrivell admitted she was behind an influence campaign in the $16 billion Australian advertising industry to pressure brands to pull their ad spending from Sky News.
I have some quite strong personal views about some of the content that appears on Sky News and I’m part of our media industry,” Ms Shrivell said. “I speak to marketers, advertisers, media planners and buyers about considering the type of content they are advertising around.”
Ms Shrivell has helped co-ordinate attempted ad boycotts against the Seven Network over its coverage of Melbourne’s African Australian community as well as Fairfax Media-owned 2GB radio host Alan Jones.
She initially denied she was in contact with Sleeping Giants, but later admitted she was in contact with an anonymous local organiser. Yesterday Sleeping Giants launched a campaign calling on voters to target federal MPs who receive complimentary Foxtel/Sky News access through the pay-TV industry’s trade group. Ms Shrivell retweeted the Sleeping Giants tweet. “I advocate for them in the industry,” she said. “I’m not involved in Sleeping Giants in any capacity other than just advocating for them in the market.
“I do deal with the person or the volunteer that’s running Sleeping Giants here.”
She denied being in contact with Sleeping Giants founder Matt Rivitz, a freelance copywriter in San Francisco who was recently outed against his wishes. “They are all volunteers. Other than that, there’s really no financial relationship other than me just wanting to highlight this is an issue in the industry,” she said.
“I’m an independent operator in the industry. I pick up various issues such as the NBN, media ownership landscape and, sadly, hate speech in our mainstream media.”
MediaScope publishes a free weekly newsletter and offers a range of services including MediaScapes, a guide to the industry that Shrivell sells to clients including PwC.
She rejected suggestions her business could profit from her activism and meetings with advertisers, media buyers, and planners. “It’s a topic I feel very strongly about and absolutely no money changes hand,” she said.
After Blair Cottrell, the former leader of the far-right United Patriots Front, appeared on Sky News’s Adam Giles Show last month, Sleeping Giants launched a campaign on social media calling for an ad boycott of the network. Sky News, which is operated by The Australian’s publisher, News Corp Australia, issued a lengthy apology for the interview, withdrew the show and launched an internal review within 24 hours of the appearance.
Despite widespread media coverage, it has since emerged that fewer than 200 individual Twitter accounts were responsible for 53 per cent of the activity, and more than 70 per cent of the accounts are anonymous.
Of those 200 Twitter accounts, as few as 10 generated a total of 4500 tweets in 45 days aimed at advertisers such as Qantas, IGA Supermarkets and Citi, according to social media monitoring firm Brandwatch.
Australian News Channel chief executive Angelos Frangopoulos has hit back at the Sleeping Giants campaign by accusing the group of targeting the broadcaster and other media companies for political reasons.
“It’s time to call this out for what it is: a political activist group,” Mr Frangopoulos said. “Hiding behind ‘social value’, they carry out a commercial terrorist campaign by confecting consumer outrage. The analysis raises some real questions about their credentials — come on, 4500 tweets from the same 10 accounts in 45 days? Seriously? They prey on advertisers by targeting them with a fear campaign and direct threats. Some ‘advertisers’ who have banned us have never even advertised with us. Others who they claim have banned us are still advertising.”
Ms Shrivell, who has tweeted criticisms of Sky News and support for the ad ban through her personal account, denied she set up the campaign’s anonymous Twitter accounts and ran the Australian arm of Sleeping Giants. “There are about 14 or 15 affiliates in different countries throughout the world of Sleeping Giants,” she said. “It’s all run by volunteers. As far as I know, I’m the only person throughout the world that is in the industry and advocates for them in the way that I do.”
After Sky News banned Cottrell, he continued to have a presence on Twitter and Facebook, even after he used both to post about hypothetically raping Sky News staff. Facebook refused to disable Cottrell’s account on the grounds that the comment was not directed at a particular person, did not “incite” rape and did not breach its standards. Twitter gave Cottrell a one-week ban.
When asked why the Sleeping Giants ad-ban campaign was not directed at Facebook and Twitter, Ms Shrivell said: “My message to the industry is for them to define the types of content they do and do not want their advertising to appear around, and then to communicate that very clearly with the media vendors.”
When pressed on whether this exposed a double standard, she said: “I don’t agree with hate speech on any platform, but I do also partly think that there is already a lot of focus on digital media platforms, and there isn’t many people speaking about that type of content in mainstream media. I’m putting my head above the parapet to do that.”
With 2.2 billion users, Facebook is the world’s biggest publisher. Google’s YouTube has 1.8 billion monthly users, making it effectively the world’s biggest television network. Both networks are riddled with extremist, inappropriate and illegal content. Facebook has refused to remove potentially illegal terrorist and child pornography content. In recent weeks Sleeping Giants has used Twitter to target public transport ministers around Australia in an attempt to put Sky News’s commercial contracts under pressure…”