Boycotting is no route to brand safety
Brand safety is top of the news agenda this week as the tragic suicide of teenage cyberbullying victim Hannah Smith prompted brands to pull advertising from online forum Ask.fm.
Brands including BT, Specsavers, The Sun and Vodafone all pulled ads from the forum as a response to Ask.fm’s seemingly lax policies towards safeguarding its users from cyberbullying.
Besides the obvious horror, this highlights an issue for marketers that is rife across the worldwide web, and that’s the safety of their brand, i.e. the scale of the medium means brands can rarely be 100 per cent sure of where their paid-for media appears.
Obviously, the aforementioned advertisers were judicious in their actions. A similar incident occurred only a few months ago when Nationwide and Sky pulled ads on Facebook after it emerged that brands’ ads were being served against content making light of violence against women.
The issue of online brand safety, ad displacement, content verification deficiencies (whatever you want to call it) rears its troublesome head time and time again.
The scale of the worldwide web makes it almost impossible to police, plus the speed of online means marketers may have to make decisions they would normally take twice as long to ponder offline.
But marketers that aren’t building a long term strategy are guilty of shortsightedness. So while advertisers boycotting websites after the public has cried foul may be appropriate, I don’t think you can call it responsible, especially when there are so many technological safeguards in place.