When Ad Servers Go Wrong

When Ad Servers Go Wrong

Screenshot of Crown Royal ad in prom photos
Royal Crown Ad

Each spring OregonLive.com sends photographers to most of the local proms. My oldest daughter is a graduating senior this year, and I was glad to see 84 photos from her prom on OregonLive.com. There were some great shots in the photo gallery, as well as some ads.

As much as I like Crown Royal, I was not excited about seeing the ad in the high school gallery. The ad illustrated one of problems with programmatic display advertising. When the ad server decides placement, it does not blacklist specific content. With print publications, ad placement is crucial and an editor would never include an alcohol ad next to prom content.

Contextual placement can work well for certain products or services, but it has its own issues (see 7/8/14 blog post – horsemeat). Will the next step in contextual advertising be blacklisting content so Crown Royal ads do not show next to student content?

Everyone assumes that technology is always an improvement over legacy practices. In this case a person managing ad placement would have been better for everyone – Oregonlive.com, the students in the gallery, as well as the advertiser.

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