In light of the current situation in Ukraine, all eyes are on the news updates. Is this the right environment to monetize your audience’s attention though? As marketers, it’s our responsibility to take a serious account of context relevance in ad placement. Honestly, which brand would like to blend their ads with all hell breaking loose?
It’s never too early to start being mindful of the appropriate context when placing your ad, as already discussed in our previous post. Otherwise, the bitter aftertaste could linger indefinitely. Take a deeper dive into the subject here:
- Out of context, out of control. When CNN recently showed an Applebee’s ad featuring the song “Chicken Fried” next to footage of Ukraine, it was awkward and inappropriate, to say the least. The ad appeared next to the Kyiv footage through “picture in picture” format. Per screenshots of the moment shared online, CNN had played the Applebee’s ad in a larger screen, while a frozen picture of the previous air raid siren footage was in the left corner. It went downhill in a split second: after layering the commercial featuring a dancing cowboy amid coverage of the military conflict, CNN faced a torrent of online criticism.
- Mind the platform. In challenging times, brands should be extra selective when entrusting a media channel with their brand image alongside coverage of political or other sensitive topics. Applebee’s was not aware that their ads would run adjacent to armed conflict footage. This is not a one-off situation though. Similar incidents have been reported in the past about other brands’ ads placed next to offensive and/or controversial content on YouTube, Facebook, etc., without their knowledge, leading to time-consuming and unpleasant investigations.
- Brand perception repercussions. According to a recent Statista survey on how one’s perception of a brand would be affected if it was advertised next to offensive or controversial content, the majority of the respondents, or 59%, stated it would have a negative effect on their perception of the advertised brand, while 4% responded that it would have a positive effect.
In the particular case, CNN was slammed on social media after the ad aired and Applebee’s trended on Twitter. According to Ad Age, “clips of the jarring juxtaposition were captured and shared by multiple Twitter users and retweeted thousands of times…”. The brand’s reaction? “When we were made aware that our ad was placed in this manner, we immediately reached out to CNN to pause our advertising on their network,” according to an Applebee’s spokesperson.
- “It should never have aired”. CNN practically went from broadcasting air raid sirens in Ukraine to showing an upbeat picture-in-picture ad for a casual restaurant chain. Reportedly, Applebee’s were “disappointed in the actions of the network” and paused their advertising on CNN. The so-called “squeezeback ads” have been removed from the network’s coverage. The problematic placement however illustrates the unintended consequences of airing split-screen ads during a global crisis. As far as a brand is concerned, the question is not why it happened but rather how far-reaching the consequences for its reputation will be as viewers take notice, as well as how to adequately safeguard ads and brands’ integrity in the future.
Marketers should have a clear sense of their tolerance for brand safety risk and be prepared to act if the environment where their ads appear turns too negative, according to emarketer. Otherwise, an unfortunately-timed placement of an ad can turn into a very bitter – and costly – experience for a brand.
Novelty Media, via SmartAdd, offers an integrative solution built by design to provide 100% predictable context holding no surprises. With us, your ads and content run solely in 4 strictly pre-defined unique instances related to routine smartphone usage, harnessing the full and undivided attention of your audience. Keep following our Marketing Bites to find out more about SmartAdd and the semantics of our solution.