Contextual Advertising Gone Awry…But is it ALL Bad?


In an Ad-Rants e-mail, there was this story about the horrible news on CNN.com that talked about the deaths of several members of our armed forces over in Iraq. The point of this posting was the fact that this ad was an unfortunate target of CNN’s banner ad-serving, which appears to be based on contextual advertising. What’s so bad about it right now? Well basically think about it…you have a story about military personnel dying during a time of war and on the advertising section of this page, there’s a banner for life insurance that reads…

“If you died today, who would fund your family’s future?”

Umm…sorry, but that was probably poor placement both on CNN’s part (or whoever their ad-serving network is — chances are Doubleclick?) and this life insurance company.

However, we shouldn’t automatically rule contextual advertising as a bad thing. It is good because for those normal searches we are doing, a banner ad that relates to what we’re looking for would be very beneficial for both the client and the customer. However, there are certain times, like in the case of CNN, that contextual advertising shouldn’t take place.

What would probably be prudent is for the advertisers to examine all the issues that are going on, especially relating to any news sites (e.g. CNN, MSNBC, Fox News, etc.) as any bad/breaking news that goes on will bring scrutiny on any advertisement that appears.