Digital ad errors will be costly to progress

In a week where the Apple iPad launch showed just how innovative digital technologies are fast becoming, a shadow has still been hanging over display advertising with Marks & Spencer coming under scrutiny for placing a champagne ad on a website aimed at young girls, and separately another website for girls was attacked for encouraging them to adopt children as fashion accessories in a web game.

Both incidents showcase the uproar that online mistakes can cause amongst parents. In the worst case scenario, it can lead to a boycott altogether.

Of course, digital isn’t the only medium to fall prey to controversy. We only have to think back to a few weeks ago when the Outdoor Advertising Association (OAA) caused outrage on Mumsnet for its controversial “Career women make bad mothers” creative.

What all of these incidents remind us of is just how serious the risk of ad misplacement can be. With ad networks having so many options to choose to place their ads with, there must be a more intimate solution between the client and network, to avoid any such dilemmas.

Pushing boundaries is admirable, but getting it badly wrong is deadly. In the same way humans face criticism for inappropriate behaviour, so will brands.

It all goes back to the education issue, clients need to understand what their ad is doing in the interactive space and where it is going. Agencies and media networks have to ensure that the targeting is accurate as possible and will deliver the best results possible.

So on that basis, what on earth did the ad network behind the placing of the M&S champagne ad intend to achieve? Occurrences like this may be a rarity, but more work needs to be done to ensure the right privacy and rules are in place to avoid such misdemeanours – something Disney is working hard at.


Aside from the inappropriate website activity, the aforementioned iPad launch is potentially offering advertisers a new hub for creativity.

A new bigger screen to the iPod Touch and iPhone and a more sophisticated browser is offering marketers an array of new options to promote brands in the digital world.

Added to that, the new Software Development Kit (SDK) that Apple has released will offer apps developers a whole new tool for engaging with consumers and offering them a new format for interaction.

With research published by ITV and the Direct Marketing Association, showing that response rates to online activity went up by 175% when viewers were multi-tasking while watching TV, devices like this will be core to the future. Radio Advertising Bureau figures also showed consumer were 52% more likely to browse for a brand online after exposure to a radio campaign.

In our quick vox-pop of marketers, it was a common answer that all will be looking to play with the SDK and improve what’s already on offer in the Apple AppStore to become even bigger and better.

Our cover feature interview with David Jones, CEO of Havas Worldwide, shows how networks are looking to “open themselves up to a whole bunch of talent” who aren’t interested in TV, but are in digital.

With the industry set to boom like this, it’s time to get houses in order. Digital has to be the engaging, interactive and personalised service it sets out to be. Failure to do that means you’re admitting defeat and aren’t going to be moving places in the 21st century.


Jo Roberts

Merging the online and offline world

Jo Roberts

Many high street stores are still suffering from the effects of the recession and won’t be greatly comforted that economic growth has risen by a paltry 0.1% in the last three months of 2009, according to the Office of National Statistics.


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