OPINION: Big brands performing badly

David Allcock
By David Allcock | 22 March 2013

I was shown a mobile ad last week for a very well-known fast food giant. It had been served into a farting app. I suspect both the client and agency are blissfully unaware. It led me to dig a little deeper (which took no time at all) into mobile ad placements that advertisers would deem unsafe. A few highlights for me were the sheer number of brand advertisers on a torch app, whose ads would be impossible to see in the dark. My favourite however, was a huge global brand on a site selling guns, including AK-47’s. A laughable moment really for all but the brand.

Such campaigns are plentiful in the mobile ecosystem right now, as advertisers race to follow eyeballs in an increasingly mobile world. I suspect the ads were sold on the back of performance campaigns via blind ad networks. I am not knocking performance or similar networks, they have a place. I’ve created quite a few myself and for some brands this is the right strategy. But surely the global brands I discovered care where their ads are running? They certainly do in other media. Why not mobile?

I guess the answer lies in price, but cheap is cheap for a reason. And of course, a bit of ignorance is bliss. Advertisers must grasp that performance only works for performance campaigns. It does not work for most brands and one product certainly does not fit all.

For global brands, content rich, contextual and known environments are necessary brand safe requirements in addition to the typical safe guards of avoiding violent and pornographic content. And the way to determine true brand safety is asking the question: Where exactly is my ad is running?


I believe you can only truly achieve brand safety by knowing the answer. It’s the only way you can prevent your client's burgers being advertised on a fart joke site. If your advertiser can’t tell you the answer, and most can’t, such is the sell it cheap and stack it high mentality, use them only for campaigns where brand environment and quality content aren’t important.

For your next mobile campaign, here’s some more questions to ask to assess what you’re getting:

- Can you guarantee where my ad will run?

- How do I know where my ad is running, if it’s a blind placement?

- Can I have a guarantee that my ad will appear in a premium context?

- Am I simply buying inventory, regardless of context?

- How can I buy quality, relevance and context?

- Are you Mediamind certified?



David Allcock
Head of Operations
Mobile Embrace

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