Know the risks associated with using targeted advertising for your business

Many companies employ third-party advertising services that use online consumer data and automated software to place advertisements on websites, in apps and within user-generated video services.

But this wide-reaching marketing tool comes with the risk that your advertisement and brand could be displayed alongside offensive content. Third-party targeted advertising services, such as AdSense from Google and Bing Advertising from Microsoft, offer the ability to exclude targeted ads from pornographic or gambling sites. But beyond that it is difficult to prevent your ad from appearing on a website that you would prefer not be associated with your business. Many times, when an advertising service identifies a user that matches the intended audience of the advertisement, the user will see the advertisement even on offensive sites.

The rise of fake news sites further complicates matters, as new sites are created every day in an effort to reap advertising revenue. In one recent example of the challenges this presents, Allstate saw one of its ads appear next to an article denying the occurrence of the Sandy Hook school shooting on a fake news site.

A bill recently approved by President Donald Trump rolls back proposed restrictions on Internet service providers, making it easier for them sell customer data, potentially including browsing information. That will serve to increase the amount of data available for targeted advertisement services.

Despite these issues, there are still options for businesses looking to target consumers who will find their advertisement useful and/or appealing.

If possible, businesses should dedicate resources and establish procedures for monitoring the reach of targeted ads. By proactively reviewing an advertisement’s analytics, you can reduce the risk of your ad being placed on offensive sites.

Businesses should also establish procedures for quickly removing ads and responding to public criticism if an ad does appear alongside offensive content.

To be proactive, businesses should consider establishing a blacklist and/or a whitelist. A blacklist notes where your advertisement cannot appear. A whitelist is a list of approved sites where your advertisement may appear.

Although the use of a whitelist reduces the reach of an advertisement, analytics can be used to help create a powerful list that still reaches a wide audience while limiting your brand’s exposure to and association with offensive content.

Consider other measures of quality beyond just impressions, such as view-through, click-through and abandonment rates. By placing less importance on the raw number of impressions and focusing on increasing the quality and effectiveness of targeted advertisements, you can create more effective ads while offsetting the risk that your advertisement appears alongside offensive content.

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