Guilt by Association


Folks think that you're cheap, 'cause you're known by the company you keep." Dolly Parton may have put this little life lesson into song, but each of us probably heard something similar from our parents. As adults, we don't usually get told who we should and shouldn't associate with, but as advertising professionals, this lesson has important implications.

Brands are known by the company they keep. What surrounds a product's advertising can affect brands in significant ways. For this reason, finding a clean, trusted, well-lit advertising environment should be a priority.

The Obama campaign recently found out what can happen when it isn't. Some of its ads wound up on radio station Web sites adjacent to links for Thong of the Day and Car Wash Babes. As the CEO of the ad network that placed the ads admitted, "The ads should not have been displayed there."

Of course, making certain our brands keep good company has become more complex with the vast array of online media choices available. Because of this, advertisers -- through channels such as ad networks -- seek advertising efficiency at the expense of environmental control.

However, in some recent conversations with marketers conducted by Magid Associates for the Online Publishers Association (OPA), media buyers resoundingly said they don't want their ads running just anywhere. "You really don't want your ad running next to questionable content," said one account director.

And while several noted the virtues of ad networks, one marketer said when using them, "you don't have much control over where your brand appears. You could have your brand up against something that is a negative affiliation. There's a lot of room for error."

While there may be no substitute for the reach and buying ease of ad networks, branded-content sites, which control their own inventory and offer transparency, deliver on the elusive promise of a trusted, reliable environment. Marketers are ensured a high level of protection by aligning their brands directly with them.

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