Watch where your ads are appearing; especially on Facebook

August 3, 2007

Be careful where your banner adverts appear! When you serve ads through a network it’s really tricky to keep an eye on where they appear and what the content surrounding them is referring to. Yes you can specify the types and categories of sites they appear on, you can even specify the actual websites it gets placed on, but some are finding that this level of control is not enough.

We had an issue a year ago where we were running millions of impressions a day on a behavioural ad network. We were targeting the travel and leisure community and also major portals but somehow we ended up advertising holidays on a link farm site which had a rather less than decent advert for a swingers club on the same page as our advert! Needless to say as soon as this was spotted we pulled that site out of our target group. We could of course have been placed on many other sites like this during that campaign without even knowing it…

And then there’s websites like Facebook. Social networks are really difficult to target for advertising as being full of user generated content you have no control over what your advert could appear next to. Vodafone has now experienced this and has pulled all advertising from Facebook after it’s banner was displayed on the group profile for the British National Party. Vodafone pulled the ad straight away, but other brands such as Virgin Media and Orange have also appeared on that page.

I can’t see how Facebook could possibly control to a granular level where adverts are appearing in relation to the content on the pages. It will be a really difficult task and so if a lot of their big advertisers start complaining about the content on the pages their ads are appearing on it could spell trouble for their revenue streams quite quickly.

This is the trouble with user generated content and advertising. As bad as Facebook content can be I’m sure MySpace is worse. With the increasing popularity of corporate responsibility it is only going to become a bigger issue!

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