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A question for marketers - do you know where your ad is being served?

Kathy Sampey from our New York team writes...

If you were browsing the news online and saw an ad served up next to a story about a brutal murder, a plane crash or sexually graphic content, chances are you would take notice. You might also wonder why a brand marketer would have one of their ads in such close proximity to something negative or unsavory.

You’re not alone. In fact, if you’re like a lot of consumers, you might have even concluded that the ad was placed next to such content intentionally to gather more eyeballs and drive awareness and possible purchase intent. And you would probably think poorly of that brand.

A new study, “The Brand Safety Effect,” underscores the negative impact on consumers of “bad” ad placement.

Chief among the insights was that many consumers view brand unsafe ad placements as an intentional endorsement of the negative content. “It seems manipulative,” suggested one respondent. “I’d prefer a company that doesn’t use that kind of technique.”

Another respondent added, “It’s disturbing that they are generating revenue through disaster."

One even went as far as saying that it “Looks like they’re exploiting shock value.”

Adweek was the first to report on the study, which has since been picked up by numerous publications. The Brand Safety Effect was initiated by CHEQ, a military-grade cybersecurity firm, and conducted with MAGNA, the intelligence, investment and innovation unit within IPG Mediabrands, and IPG Media Lab, the media futures and advisory arm of IPG Mediabrands.

When consumers assume every ad placement is intentional, it makes them 2.8x less willing to associate with a brand when its ads are displayed in unsafe environments.  In addition, two-thirds of consumers who indicated high purchase intent for a specific brand were less likely to buy that brand after being exposed to an ad from the same company appearing alongside unsafe content.

Additional feedback from respondents was as follows:

  • The Brand Doesn’t Care About Me: Consumers are 4.5x more likely to feel the brand doesn’t care about them
  • The Brand Is Out of Touch: Consumers are 3x more likely to feel that the brand isn’t “in the know”
  • The Brand is Undesirable: Consumers’ brand quality perception drops 7x
  • The Brand Should be Avoided: Consumers are 50% less likely to recommend the brand

CHEQ’s CEO and Founder Guy Tytunovich concluded: “First-generation ad-verification solutions have focused primarily on reporting brand-safety violations after they have occurred, rather than preventing them in real-time. This means that advertisers are still, repeatedly on display alongside potentially damaging content. For this reason, we launched this study, with the intent of gauging the effect of this negative exposure on the brand’s image. The findings clearly show just how compromised brands are, and how years of reputation building can go down the drain with just a few negative ad placements.”


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