Logging In: The Ad Placement Tightrope
Who's looking out for brands?
When you build a company, blood, sweat and tears are invested into building brand equity. You work to protect your brand from competitors and predators, and yet on the game of chance on the roulette table that is online advertising, you compromise that value every time you place an advertising campaign.
Until recently, all the partners in the online advertising chain thought the other would take care of brand protection or maintaining brand equity. The agency thought the network would only place the campaign on "premium" sites; the network thought the publisher would take care of it; and the publisher attempted to maximize the ROI through extensive placements, incorrectly believing that the advertiser would be aware of the type of content that was selected in the media plan.
In reality, none of the parties involved were responsible for protecting the brand, and thus we have too many examples of misplaced ads damaging the collateral that can exist within a brand. Examples include an airline advertisement appearing alongside the story of an air disaster; a hotel chain ad next to coverage of a hurricane; an ad for a car manufacturer appearing by coverage of a freeway pile-up. These misplacements have even spawned a YouTube video.
So who's to blame?
Does the client blame the agency, the agency the network, the network the publisher? The blame game is counterproductive, as the damage is done. What is more important is the overall damage to the brand equity. A UK study pinned the blame directly on the advertiser, with more than 70 percent of those surveyed indicating that they think less of a brand that allows itself to be misplaced!
There are two schools of thought in this area: One says that viewers see the ads across entire sites, and any misplacements average themselves out, and it's the audience that counts; the second, and growing, sector suggests that as we move deeper into a hyper-targeted, brand-focused display market, the positioning of ads in wholly positive light is all-important.
To this end, there are many brand-protection solutions entering the market with various approaches and results, but all with the same purpose. Some solutions rely on blocking the domains or sites that are known to contain controversial content. So do you block entire news sites because they report on negative subjects? Or do you simply use a known domain list gathered over time and rely upon a fenced stable of "clean" inventory upon which you may deliver your ad campaigns? Or do you crawl extensive portions of the Web only to fail, due to the plethora of user-generated content that is appended to articles on most popular Web sites?
Such solutions are fundamentally flawed in that they cannot take advantage of the content explosion that has occurred. We live in a dynamic content-rich environment and advertisers require effective solutions to meet expanding needs.
In the early days of brand-protection solutions, the collective response was "we do not have brand safety issues." In 2010, the complete opposite is the case, with the vast majority of leading display media agencies requesting that brand-protection functionality be added to campaigns' targeting capabilities.
This will be the year that brand protection enables advertisers to reap the rewards of the open market, but with peace of mind knowing campaign objectives will not be compromised by ad misplacements.
Sacha Carton is a founding partner of Ad Pepper Media.