Keeping your display ads from fake news + alt-right websites
Maybe this sounds familiar: It’s 10:45 pm on Saturday and you’re deep into your latest Netflix find. You receive an urgent text from work, immediately followed by nausea as you learn your display ads have appeared on Breitbart, the infamous alt-right website. Worse, the Twitterverse is on fire calling for blood! They have screenshots!
Events like these are the unintended consequence of automated ad buying and are happening more and more, causing serious reputational damage to unsuspecting brands. As a result, ad placement has become a hot button issue among advertisers, and savvy organizations are taking steps to protect themselves against these embarrassing gaffs.
How does this happen and what can be done to safeguard your organization?
Automated Ad Buying
First, some background on automated ad buying. Automated buying systems (i.e. programmatic advertising) are widely used by large organizations as they’re cost and time effective. They also allow for more targeted advertising. That said, they come with the risk that ads may appear on questionable websites.
Most demand-side platforms (DSP) have policies in place to prevent ads from appearing on sites with certain kinds of content (adult, tobacco-related, violent content, etc), though these policies are fuzzy at best and hard to enforce.
There are generally two methods open to organizations for dealing with this:
For organizations looking for an air-tight option, whitelisting may be the way to go. Rather than blocking specific sites, whitelisting ensures your ads only run on pre-approved sites, which can number into the tens of thousands. The downside is that whitelisting limits your reach, increases your costs, and makes your campaigns less effective. Not ideal for performance, but if your organization takes a strong moral stance the trade-off may be worth it.
The most popular solution is to blacklist certain sites. This involves submitting the domains you don’t want your ads to appear on. Though not perfect, blacklisting is an effective method if maintained regularly.
Your blacklist should reflect your organization’s core values and grow over time. Here’s our (living) list of sites we block for our clients here at Massive. You’re welcome to use it if you like.
Aside from the reasons listed above, we at Massive believe it’s our moral imperative to ensure campaigns support organizations whose values align with ours and our partners’. After all, your brand isn’t what you say about yourself, but the experience others have with you across your many touch points.
So, make no mistake, lines are being drawn, intentionally or otherwise. Your ad’s placement is perceived––rightly or wrongly––as an endorsement of the sites they land on and the perspectives those sites promote. In the world of digital advertising, your mom was right, “you are the friends you keep”.
If you don’t already have a strategy for value-based ad targeting and are wondering where to start, give us a shout.