Online display advertising: target with care

So when I wrote about YouTube advertising yesterday, I bet that many of you were thinking: “But isn’t there a bit of a backlash against that at the moment?” Well, Google/YouTube has certainly given competitive media a stick to beat it with. Major brand advertisements have been appearing alongside some videos with dubious content, causing embarrassment all round. With Google’s annual advertisement revenues heading towards £50billion, it would be surprising if the company didn’t take some drastic action soon.

There are two difficulties for online advertisement placement systems. The first is avoiding unpleasant websites, and the second is avoiding unpleasant content on otherwise decent sites like YouTube. Being Google, the problem will have been given to clever people to solve algorithmically. I doubt this will solve the problem, because even if it works, it’ll be hard to convince advertisers that it has. In the end, it’s all about advertisers’ perceptions.

However, advertisers only have themselves (or their advertising agencies) to blame. They’re greedy and lazy. If they just specify that their adverts can show anywhere, without manual control or oversight, they shouldn’t expect anything but trouble. Most let their adverts run free on millions of websites, and start to eliminate the undesirable ones once they see the reports of where the ads have run. I’ve always preferred to take the cautious approach, feeding groups of allowed sites into the list rather than removing unwanted ones. Even with YouTube, it’s possible to target just videos about specified, related subjects, so that’s exactly what we do. Greed is not good.