The issue of online advertising appearing alongside inappropriate material isn’t about to go away. The web, by its very nature, is dynamic and ever-changing. Ads are served into a web page in real-time so there is no easy way to editorially control how a page will look once it is generated, as has recently been the case with Facebook.
1. Buyers beware – know what you are getting into
When buying online media on behalf of advertisers both you and they need to be aware of where advertising could show. Media planners and their clients need to be clear that ‘run of site’ or ‘run of network’ media placements, while often cheaper, could result in adverts appearing anywhere on a website.
2. You get what you pay for
If an advertiser has concerns over where adverts display then their campaign plan should state that their advertising should only appear on certain areas of a website.
This will almost definitely result in the advertiser receiving less ad views for their money – not so good for branding campaigns – but, with the reassurance of knowing within which channels of a website their adverts will appear. Unfortunately they will still not know the exact content of those channels.
3. Read and question the Terms and Conditions
When placing advertising ask the sales team: "How is your content controlled?" and "How do you ensure my adverts will not be displayed alongside drugs, violence, pornographic etc content?"
The sales representative should be able to give you a clear statement on how content is moderated as part of their terms and conditions. If they have no such mechanism, negotiate, if they do, get your requirements added to the media placement contract.
By their very nature social media websites rely on user generated content (UGC). But the terms and conditions of a website’s usage should stipulate what content can and can’t be generated and shown on a UGC website.
On social media websites – where users generate the content – the users need to be trusted and given authority to flag content as ‘adult’, ‘indecent’ or ‘inappropriate.’
UGC websites are reliant on advertising revenue – as such they need to take steps to re-assure advertisers that their content is legal and they have control mechanisms in place. If an advertiser’s trust is broken this will seriously hamper a major revenue stream.
4. Contextual advertising
Contextual advertising solutions are a step forward; with analysis of web pages to select adverts to display based on the copy used. Advertisers should be able to add negative keywords to campaigns to limit where their ads display.
Another solution is advertising on websites where the content is subject to control, with flagging of pages possibly containing illicit material. Where necessary, advertising should cease to be shown on webpages flagged as containing inappropriate content, or on pages that have been submitted for editorial (flagged as potentially containing inappopriate content) review by the UGC community.