While most traditional advertising left advertisers at a bit of risk for running next to inappropriate content, at least there were usually human beings viewing the context before it went live. And if they saw a story that would completely clash with your ad’s content, most likely that media outlet did some quick finagling to keep paying accounts from looking like buffoons. The world of online advertising, however, has no such built-in safety net. Take a look at the ad below that popped up in the middle of a news story I was reading. The story, a touching piece about a 12-year-old girl with a rare medical condition that made her gain uncontrollable amounts of weight who had finally received the surgery she needed to help reverse her morbid obesity. The ad, a banner for fast food pioneer McDonald’s. In Spanish.
Do I blame McDonald’s for this ad placement? Of course not. That’s how online advertising works. But could I see how people could be outraged by seeing the headline “Texas Girl Obesity Surgery” tied into a Filet-o-Fish banner ad? Absolutely.
This type of potential backlash puts digital marketers in a bit of a pickle, right McDonald’s? Reaching as many targeted people as possible for the best budget means upping the potential contextual risk. On the other hand, buying ads exclusively anchored to specific content reduces your audience and ups your cost.
In the end, it’s yet another layer in an increasingly complex criteria matrix must consider with each media buy.