Advertiser Beware! Navigating Brand Risk in Digital Advertising
"Reputable colleges and universities are engaged in basically the same practices that these Russian operatives used to change the outcome of the election." — Jess Chester, executive director of the Center for Digital Democracy, a digital-rights organization
Would you want to explain to your boss why your ads showed next to child abuse videos? Would you want a Twitter watchdog group calling you out for advertising on a political propaganda site?
These questions are real-life examples that brands have faced.
Just how complex is today's advertising landscape?
The image below shows the proliferation of ad networks, exchanges, agencies and trading desks.
(image credit: LUMA Partners LLC)
As publishers, targeting options, creative formats, ways to buy ads and measurement grow faster than ever, they ratchet up the complexity for brands. Digital advertising is a great opportunity for modern marketers. But it's fraught with institutional and reputational risk.
So how can marketers mitigate brand risk when advertising?
Digital advertising isn't going away. But there are some principles that can help marketers steward their brand.
- Whitelist. Proactively choose the sites where your ads appear. A nice feature on YouTube, Facebook, Instagram, Twitter and Google AdWords is that you can choose to show ads only on those domains. "Syndication," "network," "remnant" and "ad partners" are terms you should look for to understand if your ads could be placed across domains. Some publishing platforms might offer fantastic reach at cheap prices, but do you know where your ads will show?
- Blacklist and exclude. Many publishing platforms permit advertisers to block their ads from showing on certain pages or near certain content. Take advantage of the available options. Ask yourself: "Would I want someone grabbing a screenshot of my ad next to this content? . . . and posting it on Twitter?"
YouTube | channel exclusions
Google Display | content exclusions
- Negative Keywords. Google AdWords allows you to avoid searches that might be embarrassing (e.g., "scandal," "layoffs," "investigation," "lawsuit"). Paid search agencies typically maintain robust (and filthy) lists of negatives. At the very least, you should have a standard list of negatives you apply to all paid search efforts (I'm happy to help you get started).