3 Surprising Ways Advertising Can Devastate Your Brand

94% of digital marketers think programmatic marketplace quality is a major problem. Advertising campaigns that run ad impressions on inappropriate sites or content can hurt high profile, family-oriented brands like Playskool or Disney, which is a serious issue.

Developing a brand isn’t an easy task, a lot of work and money goes into crafting an identity. And with the wrong ad placement, that brand identity can take a negative hit. You want contextual environments that align with your brand’s values, not clash. You need advertising that’s brand safe.

Unfortunately, apathetic agencies and fraudsters don’t care if they damage your brand’s reputation, so long as they’re making money. It’s up to you to protect your brand.

Programmatic Mistakes

Programmatic or automated traffic buying is super convenient for advertisers, giving them access to plenty of traffic. However, in order for programmatic to be brand safe, you can’t just throw dollars at any old agency. You need to do your research. Know who your agency is, where your traffic is coming from, and where your ads are running.

Most agencies won’t care if your ad for Aflac appears on an article about the fear of being watched by a duck (true story). Bottom line: those agencies are still making money, while you’re faced with damage control.

Aflac Ad
Source: Ryan Kuder

To protect your brand, it’s up to you to evaluate potential “contextual danger” by asking yourself if an ad’s placement is appropriate. If it isn’t, hold the agency accountable, and if necessary, find a new agency. And don’t forget to make sure your ad is viewable and that it’s being seen by humans, not bots.

Brand Safety Tip: Do your programmatic homework.

Ad Injections

Bot traffic isn’t the only thing advertisers have to worry about. Fraudsters have plenty of tricks up their sleeves including ad injection. Here, fraudsters use browser extensions to place ads on websites. Then they’re “injected” onto sites and sold by third parties without the owner’s permission. Any money that’s earned is collected by the third parties, not the advertiser.

Often these fraudulent ads will appear on top of already existing ads, replace existing ads entirely, or appear on pages that weren’t supposed to have ads at all.

The biggest challenge with ad injection is knowing that the problem is occurring in the first place. Many advertisers are unaware that they’re facing problems unless it’s staring them right in the face. One of the most jaw-dropping examples of ad injection is the Target ad running on Walmart.com.

Target Ad on Wal-Mart
Source: MarketingKeys.net

So, how can a company as big as Wal-Mart fall victim to an ad injection scheme? Turns out it’s not that uncommon. Many agencies allow injected inventory that falls under “toolbar” inventory to pass through their systems. As long as an ad is identified as “toolbar” inventory, it’s considered legitimate and able to pass through.

The fight against ad injection is evolving. Currently, Google is cracking down on shady extensions for its Chrome browser, as well as spreading the word of companies involved with ad injections.

Brand Safety Tip: Watch out for ad injection schemes.

Deceptive Ads

Native advertising has many pros including better customer targeting and website integration, but it also has drawbacks. Most notably, native ads are misleading. Customers don’t like feeling tricked into clicking an ad, and this can result in audience backlash.

Here, BuzzFeed’s “14 Laundry Fails We’ve All Experienced” looks like a typical BuzzFeed listicle, but it’s not. It’s actually a sponsored article for Dylon. Not only is it misleading to readers, it also breaks UK law by failing to make clear it’s an online advertorial. Uh-oh.

BuzzFeed Sponsored Article
Source: The Guardian

Don’t do what BuzzFeed did. To minimize potential backlash (and not break the law):

  • Create native ads tailored to your target demographic.
  • Follow recommended guidelines including labeling ads as sponsored or promoted content.
  • Maintain a healthy balance of content to native ads.

Brand Safety Tip: Minimize native ad backlash (and not break the law) by labeling ads as sponsored or promoted content.