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AdSafe: Porn, Holiday Ads Will Mix

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How about some porn inventory to round out your holiday ad campaign?

Undoubtedly, that offer won’t resonate with most big brand advertisers—many of whom are dialing up their ad efforts as they head into the prime holiday shopping season. Yet that is a serious possibility, according to a new report issued by AdSafe Media, one of the leading companies in the online ad verification/ratings space.

Companies like AdSafe and Double Verify deploy technology which promises to prevent advertisers' campaigns from running in the wrong places—either on sites that fall outside the target audience, or even worse, sites that carry objectionable content.

Yet according to AdSafe, many brands that ramp up spending for the holidays—often aiming to reach as broad an audience as possible—are particularly vulnerable to campaign mishaps. Based on the company’s analysis of multiple campaigns in third quarter, various retailers’ ads appeared on Web sites rated by AdSafe as being 6 percent more risky than industry averages.

While each client may define "risky" in a different way, AdSafe found that the most prevalent type of risky content for these campaigns included adult content—probably not what most brand managers had in mind.

In addition, AdSafe found that 4 percent of retailer ads ran outside of the companies’ geography—meaning that these campaigns were likely reaching customers who were unlikely to be worthy prospects.

That may result in wasteful spending. But its the potential association with porn that should scare advertisers, argues marketing consultant Julie Roehm, former svp of marketing for Wal-Mart. “Having your brand appear in an inappropriate context not only has financial and regulatory implications, [but also] it has the potential to compromise consumers’ perception of your brand,” she said. “This is of the utmost concerns to brands in the peak of their purchase cycle, such as over the holidays.”