When your online ads appear where you don't want them to
Brands can prevent their online ads from appearing next to undesirable material
Placing advertisements online? You can avoid appearing on undesirable websites by being diligent about how you buy the ads, experts say.
This comes as programmatic advertising - the use of algorithmic tools that automate the placement of advertisements online - was recently in the spotlight after many brands from all over the world found their ads positioned alongside undesired content.
For example, a video ad by Singapore's National Environment Agency appeared on a website that has articles supporting the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria, reported The Straits Times last month.
Ads for local retailer chains, banks, airlines and telcos were also found on other controversial websites, including one that has content from preachers linked to terrorism, reported ST.
In the United States, AT&T and Johnson & Johnson, among other big companies, pulled their ads from YouTube and other Google properties amid concern that Google was not doing enough to prevent their ads from appearing next to offensive material, reported The New York Times.
Experts told The New Paper that the technology behind programmatic advertising is not perfect, but there are ways that brands can still utilise it without doing harm to their reputation.
The first step is understanding how programmatic advertising works, said QED Consulting's principal consultant and founding partner Ryan Lim.
"Programmatic advertising displays ads based on the users' online viewing journey (data gathered from their online cookies).
"It is natural for users to read up on 'exciting news' on various websites out of personal curiosity rather than an endorsement of the content of the sites visited. It is quite inevitable ads are displayed on questionable websites," he said.
Marketing analytics firm DataXu's South-east Asia regional director Alvin Wong said brands could streamline where their online ads appear using a regularly updated blacklist of undesired sites, or a white list of their preferred ones.
"Everyone has a budget, which means you either choose a more targeted audience, pay a bit more for premium placements, or maximise distribution by going for as many impressions as possible - which also means your ads could appear anywhere," he said.
"It's about managing expectations of clients and educating them on how to buy ads better."
Mr Lim agreed that the issue was an industry-wide problem.
"There should also be a common standard and criterion for lists on white and black sites used by programmatic technologies; perhaps crowd-sourcing for inclusions into the white list and blacklist to make them more comprehensive.
"Differing programmatic technology vendors should also have a more active and open conversation among one another to tackle the problem collectively and effectively," he said.
A YouTube spokesman declined comment on individual videos but said it has begun an extensive review of its advertising policies and will give brands more control over where their ads appear.
"While we recognise that no system will be 100 per cent perfect, we believe these major steps will further safeguard our advertisers' brands, and we are committed to being vigilant and continuing to improve over time," said the spokesman.