Shawn Johnson Dead Video Shows Legit Ads

A hazard of any content-driven advertising is that your company’s products can easily appear with content you may not like.

Making the Internet rounds this week is a video from The Onion.  Whether the video is funny is moot.   The important issue is the advertising appearing below a fake video with high production values that discusses gymnast Shawn Johnson’s death and compares the young athlete to a racehorse.  To be crystal clear, Ms. Johnson is not dead.

Running below The Onion’s Today Now video about Shawn Johnson are ads featuring gymnastics focused products:  leotards, gymnastics equipment and so forth.  Media reports quote multiple gymnasts and sports pundits, all of whom seem distressed or critical of the video.  Yet the ads running below the video target the very audience that is most critical of the content.

This is an extreme case.   In many others, poor targeting is relatively benign.  A local listing for a small business servicing homes such as an electrician or plumber might appear on a vacation page for that area.  Those are just wasted impressions, and if the business isn’t paying on an impression basis, any damage is relatively minor.

And many gymnasts likely won’t associate the advertiser on the bottom of the screen with the production of the video, but there just may be enough confusion to wonder if the advertisers directly sponsor this content.  And that’s where the trouble comes in.

If your online marketing agency is running content-based ads, ask them to show you a list of sites where your ad is appearing.    You’re not looking to find someone doing something wrong, but with your specialized knowledge of your industry, you can provide a unique perspective on how others within the industry may perceive the content.

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