MySpace "Shoot The Rapper" Banners Link To Virginia Tech Shooting Victims

The Web is notorious for inappropriately matching content with ads, whether it's a random mistake or the result of contextual ad software, which links keywords in content with related ads. And with so much of the Virginia Tech tragedy being played out online, it was only a matter of time before such a match occurred.

It now appears as if MySpace has been running banner ads encouraging viewers to "Shoot the Rapper, win $5,000," or five free ringtones, alongside profiles of Virginia Tech students who lost their lives earlier this week.

The unfortunate placement was first reported by consultant Peter Krasilovsky on his "Local Onliner" blog on Wednesday.

Shawn Gold, CMO of MySpace, said he was unaware of the regrettable placement and that its occurrence was completely random.

"That's a random network ad that runs throughout our site, and it's not connected contextually because we don't place banner ads contextually on MySpace," said Gold.

Added Gold: "It's inappropriate if the ads are running on those profiles, and we can eliminate them from our network if that's the case."

Observers, however, would like to see publishers like News Corp.'s MySpace take further steps to prevent instances like this from happening.

"The time has come for a company with the global reach and influence of Fox Interactive Media to set some real standards in advertising, and send advertisers with such a delightful message as 'Shoot the Rapper' into the trash heap," wrote Peter Zollman, principal of consultancy Classified Intelligence, on the web site on Thursday.

Added Zollman: "Imagine the outcry if Fox Television ran a 60-second spot that said, 'Shoot the American Idol star--on our Web site--and win $5,000.' This is no different."

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