Brands beware: Ads adjacent to offensive online content can hurt

Paul HiebertData Journalist
April 11, 2017, 6:28 PM GMT+0

A new poll shows that nearly a third of the public thinks online ads placed next to racist or sexist content are endorsements

Recently, both online publishers and big-name brands have come under scrutiny for placing advertisements alongside offensive content found on the internet.

Due to the rise of programmatic advertising, whereby marketers use automated tools to place ads on thousands of websites, companies aren’t always aware of the articles or videos their name and logo are appearing beside.

A recent survey suggests brands have good reason to worry about where their ads are seen and heard. Nearly half of US adults who have encountered online content that they consider racist, sexist, or hateful report viewing the brand advertising next to it more negatively as a result. Just over a quarter said the experience left their impression of the brand unchanged.

When asked if they thought the brand being advertised alongside offensive material was somehow endorsing that material, more Americans said it was than it wasn't (30% to 20%). While consumers aged 35-54 are divided on the question, both younger and older Americans appear more likely to agree that a brand approves of the content it leverages to reach an audience.