Can you always control where your ad ends up?

In the fast paced world of advertising and news, it is not unusual that ads sometimes end up next to the most inappropriate content to their aims.  For instance, think of a luggage ad next to news of a gory murder involving bodies in suitcases, or cheery tourism ads next to disaster stories. These have happened to many advertisers.

Couple that with the rise of real-time bidding advertising and this looks to be a problem that might stay.

When running targeted ads, brands can blacklist certain keywords or phrases to ensure these sorts of placements do not happen. However, these mistakes tend to be discovered in retrospect.

According digital experts, current brand safety technology cannot guarantee a 100% brand safe environment online. Also, user-generated content and news content carry the greatest risks, because the content is updated so quickly.

Also, the risk of this taking place digitally is higher, compared to that in traditional media. Whilst not completely safe, ad placements in traditional media are more intentional with media planners, editors, layout artists all working together thereby increasing human interaction.

Natasha Zhao, principal consultant, Blugrapes said that such problems are here to stay unless ad servers and networks increase their targeting sophistication to ensure that the surrounding context the ad is placed in is positive and the ad is evaluated before placement.

In cases of misplaced ads on traditional media, the people involved in the placement should be able to raise flags to prevent such mistakes from happening.

Lucy Jacobsen, director - digital media of Dentsu Mobius said it is the responsibility of reputable publishers, ad exchanges and networks to utilise available technology to ensure brand safety. Agencies should also play their part by asking about the capabilities and limitations of the technology being used by their suppliers, she added.

According to Giles Henderson, media and channels director of VML Qais, the situation becomes more at risk and difficult to manage when a brand is running campaigns directly with publishers.

“While restrictions can be put in place, if the publisher trafficking the ad doesn’t realise the impact of the placement and thinks they are doing a favour by the contextual targeting, then brands can run into similar situations,” Henderson told Marketing.

Limiting the risks

Referencing a recent situation where a reputed airline’s ad was seen next to a plane crash article, Jacobsen said a simple negative keyword targeting relevant to airlines (such as ‘crash’, ‘killed’ and ‘missing’) would have prevented the ad from appearing against this story.

“The potential damage to brands would depend on how widely viewed the placement (and any subsequent articles about it) is, but it should be assessed in the context of the campaign performance as a whole,” she added.