By Andrew Goode, Chief Operation Officer, Project Sunblock
As we move deeper into the digital age, more and more brands are taking their advertising campaigns online. In fact, a recent study by the Internet Advertising Bureau and PwC showed that advertisers spent a record £3 billion targeting British internet users in the first half of 2013. And it’s easy to see why. With 2.4 billion people connected to the internet in the UK alone - a figure that is only going to get bigger – the online landscape certainly boasts the level of eyeballs that marketer’s desire.
With online set to become the most dominant channel, the rules of advertising are changing. But in order to play the game well, marketers must be aware of the dangers online, or risk having their reputations penalised.
The online battleground
For online advertising to be effective, brands need to ensure that their content is getting in front of the right audience. However, due to a lack of control online, advertising often unknowingly ends up in places where it shouldn’t. There are number of potential consequences from this, ranging from messaging misplacement, right through to a breakdown of customer trust.
Take the example of a sports brand appearing on a site that’s all about wine. Strategically speaking, it’s completely off target and delivers potentially little value. But what’s worse, beyond appearing on pointless pages and wasting spend, brands can seriously harm their reputation if their adverts feature on illegal and offensive sites.
So how does a well-respected brand find its way into the dark recess of the internet? Well it’s a complicated situation, but essentially, once the advertising collateral is ceded out by the advertising agency, it’s then accepted by the supply chain, which in many cases may pass through an advertising exchange. The risk of this however, is that the further away from the original advertising agency the collateral goes, the less control marketers have over where their advertising ends up. Once a campaign is delivered through an exchange, it can turn up anywhere on the internet. It’s really not that difficult to find examples of well-known super-fast broadband providers advertising on a peer-to-peer download site, having been channelled via this route. The grave reality of this is that these brands could be accused of supporting criminality, as it’s through advertising that the majority of these sites are funded.
Protecting your brand online
Although there is a major transparency issue when it comes to online ad placement, there are now ways for marketers to better control the whereabouts of their content and proactively monitor it to keep their reputations intact.
Content verification technology is proving to be the armour of choice in the battle of online ad placement. Marketers can simply select content types, sites, or key words they do not want their collateral to be associated with. If these terms then appear on the website where their ad is going to be served, the placement is rejected and the content goes back to the exchange.
Content verification also works on a reactive basis. A website may change its content once an ad has already been published and the new content could compromise the brand’s integrity. Therefore, given the active nature of the internet, the ability to recognise inappropriate content in real time is crucial.
As the industry comes of age and awareness increases around the potential reputation injuries online, technology such as content verification will become mainstream. But brands shouldn’t have to wait for this change to happen. Smart marketers that want to keep safe online will implement these tools into their strategies now. In turn, their campaigns will be slicker and they will begin to see the real value that online advertising has to offer.
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