Is it Time to Rethink Your Display Advertising Campaigns?

executive at computer

Do you know how many websites your company is advertising on every month? Do you know how much you’re spending on those display ads? What if I told you that you could dramatically decrease the number of websites displaying your ads, without seeing a decrease in results?

That’s exactly what JP Morgan Chase has recently learned. Before March 2017, the banking giant had ads appearing on about 400,000 websites every month. Though the number may seem a little large to the average small business owner, it’s really the new normal for enterprise level companies because there’s a lot of focus on automation to reach customers.

But, as more brands are finding their ads displaying next to things they don’t want to be associated with – fake news websites, or offensive video content – they’re starting to limit the number of sites their display ads can run on. Chase removed their ads from all but around 5,000 of those websites. And though that may lead you to believe they’d see a change in the cost of impressions and ad visibility, the company’s chief marketing officer says that hasn’t really been the case so far. Granted, it’s a bit early in the process for them to really know the outcome, but they expect it to stay about the same.

 

Display Advertising and Your Online Reputation

Though a lot of consumers use ad blockers to completely remove ads from their online experience, you can’t count on that ad blindness meaning you’ve got nothing to worry about. There’s still the chance your company’s products or services will be advertised on a website that could negatively affect consumer perception.

In March, the British government, and several other organizations learned their advertising was placed next to extremist material. Digital advertising remains a cost effective way to engage millions of people in a variety of campaigns, from what products to buy to donating blood. They reached out to Google, because they believe the company is responsible for adhering to high standards – to make sure government advertising content isn’t placed alongside offensive or extremist content.

In fact, major brands AT&T and Johnson & Johnson, among other companies, pulled advertisements from YouTube recently, because of concern Google hasn’t done enough to prevent their ads from appearing next to offensive material.

Chase is now running ads only on a list of sites it has pre-approved, in an effort to eliminate the likelihood of their ads being displayed on websites that promote anything other than what aligns with their brand values. They will continue to run ads on YouTube, by restricting their advertising to run only on a list of 1,000 “human checked” channels.

Display ads can run on any number of sites using the advertising network. Your ad may or may not ever end up next to offensive content. Or, it could repeatedly end up next to it. One of the important things to consider is whether or not your audience is likely to even notice that sort of thing. And if they do, are they likely to be offended by it?

Google responded by saying they will be making changes to their policies for advertisers. They’ve decided they will give brands more control over where their ads appear, and taking a tougher approach toward any offensive, hateful, and derogatory content. They will be removing ads all together from any content that attacks or harasses people based on gender, race, religion, or similar categories. That change alone, ensures Google will be able to take appropriate action on larger sites and ad sets.

 

What Does This Mean for Publishers?

Every day, thousands of publishers join advertising networks as a way to earn revenue for their content. Publishers must be more careful about what they are willing to allow to be published on their website, or possibly risk losing the ads.

Does this mean publishers will need to censor themselves? No. It just means that Google’s ad network may no longer be the best choice. And it may mean that other display ad networks may follow along. If your website consistently produces the kind of content that advertisers are shying away from because of its nature, then it may be time to look into other revenue models and monetization methods.

Popular YouTube star PewDiePie lost a Disney sponsorship because of anti Semitic messaging in his videos. Disney didn’t want their brand to be associated with anti Semitism. Does this mean PewDiePie has to stop displaying anti Semitic imagery? Of course not – he is free to continue saying and doing what he wants – but he is not free of the consequences as a result of those words and actions. He is either forced to find new sponsors (advertisers) for revenue, or to change the type of content he creates.

Whether you’re a publisher of words or videos – the content you post online matters. If you want to earn revenue by working with brands in any capacity, that means you’ll have to find a brand who is interested in what you have to offer. If you’re known for being vulgar and offensive, that doesn’t mean you can’t get deals – it just means they’ll be a little different from the options you’d have if you weren’t known for that sort of thing.

 

What Does This Mean for Programmatic Advertising?

There are numerous ad exchanges online, and traditional media companies account for only a small percentage of the available daily ad impressions. Google’s display network includes more than two million websites. When you add in the fact that it also owns more than three million ad-supported YouTube channels, that’s a lot of advertising space.

Programmatic ad buying relies on software to buy digital advertising – meaning it’s a completely automated, hands-off process. This approach is thought to make the entire ad system more efficient and by removing the human touch, more affordable. Machines are doing the work, and because they don’t get sick or need sleep like us humans do, they can do more of it faster, and longer. The automated programmatic buying process isn’t the only way to purchase digital advertising, but t’s likely a big part of why we’re seeing so many mismatched ad placements at this point in time.

If more advertisers start to follow in Chase’s footsteps, creating their own list of approved properties, then it could create problems for many of the smaller advertising technology companies. It could mean we see a change in the way the technology works – adding back the human element where advertisers are allowed to pick and choose from a number of publishers where they are okay with their content displaying.

 

Worried About Display Advertising?

If you’re worried about display advertising and what it means for your online reputation, you could take an approach similar to what Chase is doing – which will be easier since you’re likely running on a much smaller scale. Basically what they did was look at the web addresses where their ads showed up over the last 30 days.

From there, the looked at the percentage of ads that lead to any activity beyond impressions. They had an intern manually click on each one of those websites to see the kind of content that was displayed, to make sure the content was something they were okay with advertising on. Chase found that out of the 12,000 websites that lead to activity beyond impressions only 5,000 of those were ones they wanted to advertise on.

Before you decide to take the axe to your display advertising, consider doing an audit similar to Chase’s. You may find you’re spending more money than necessary, advertising on way too many publishers for little action beyond impressions. Take a look at the ROI and determine if there’s a portion of your budget you could turn away from this type of advertising and shift it into another type, such as native advertising.

What’s the craziest juxtaposition of content and ad you’ve ever seen? Tell me about it in the comments below.

SEO virtuoso, CEO @Sachs Marketing Group. Focused on being of service to business owners - helping to better position them in the eyes of their audiences.

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