There has been another headline-grabbing tussle over Internet advertising recently. As reported, Vodafone announced it was pulling its ads from the world's fastest-growing social networking phenomenon, Facebook. Apparently it found some of its campaigns appearing on pages about the pseudo-fascist British National Party. Voda was quickly followed by FirstDirect, the Halifax, Pipex, Virgin Media and the AA, according to the BBC.
For me this story highlights two things:
- The continuing naivete of the large advertisers, who still treat the Internet as they do print media, assuming an indelible link between a page's content and its adverts. This belies the fluid, fast-moving and massive-volume nature of the Internet. This is the fastest-growing medium in history, and you're either a part of it (warts and all) or not.
- The importance of better campaign control. In fact, the technology exists to control precisely where adverts appear. The Internet has gotten a bad reputation among brand advertisers thanks to unscrupulous ad networks and the rapid growth of user-generated content sites like blogs and social networks, where content is impossible to control. This has in turn created a space for quality networks that make campaign control and brand protection a top priority, like Adviva among others (Disclosure: Kennet company).
The Internet is the fastest-changing, most far-reaching medium ever, so advertisers can't afford not to be a part of it. Of Facebook's 35m+ active users, I'm sure less than 0.001% have ever visited the BNP's home page. It is effectively irrelevant. This medium requires a more relaxed attitude to content risk, and a smarter approach to campaing planning & control.