“Your Ad Here” The problems with online advertising – can you control where your ad ends up?

1 March, 2017

Recent press reports have highlighted that adverts for some well known brands have ended up on some very unsavoury websites, and as a result a number of companies have said they are pulling their advertising from the UK.  But is there a way in which you can benefit from online advertising without putting your brand at risk?


What did we have before?

“Traditional” online advertising involves agents manually buying advertising space for their clients, in much the same way as any other form of advertising. The human touch means that (hopefully) some thought goes into where adverts are placed, and the agent’s market knowledge and judgment comes into play. Yet it also means that adverts can’t be targeted as precisely, and the buying process is dependent on human interaction so it can only move at a certain pace.


Where are we now?

Manual placing of advertising is increasingly being replaced by programmatic advertising, in which the purchase and placement of adverts is tailored (whether by time, user, or context) in an effort to maximise impact. The complexities of the tailoring criteria and the instantaneous purchases needed require that programmatic advertising is (as the name suggests) carried out using algorithms.


So what’s the problem?

While that automation can deliver huge benefits in terms of efficiency and cost, the lack of a human involvement in every stage of the purchasing process can cause some serious issues. A number of businesses have recently found their adverts displayed alongside inappropriate or illegal content, including extremist videos. The potential for brand damage here is significant, and businesses only have limited remedies against the agencies which carried out the purchases on their behalf.


So what do we do?

Although some businesses have responded by pulling UK programmatic advertising altogether, brands wishing to still take advantage of programmatic advertising have some alternatives to minimise any risk of being associated with inappropriate content. Businesses should take care to select an established provider of programmatic advertising (with appropriate processes in place to prevent reputational damage), conduct due diligence on an agency’s buying policies, request general obligations within contracts to avoid brand damage, look to agree whitelists and blacklists of appropriate and inappropriate sites, and consider what level of buying autonomy they are prepared to give to their agency.


For assistance and advice in relation to advertising and media buying contracts, please contact Elliot Fry on +44 (0)1732 224 034 or elliot.fry@crippspg.co.uk.