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Those geniuses in Revlon's marketing team

I was watching Penn & Teller’s show Bullshit on Showtime, which I always enjoy, and heard about this guy called The Video Vigilante in Oklahoma who runs around with a camera, exposing prostitutes and their customers on a Website called johntv.com.  I went to the site, and clicked through to one of his videos, which he hosts on YouTube.

This is what came up. You can click on the image to make it bigger.

Notice that Revlon’s ad buy is not only positioned beautifully on this obviously out-of-context page, but YouTube’s new system of doing video snipes has taken over the bottom fourth of the viewing window and positioned the ad on top of some very different content.

This is why I have been fighting for a few months now about appropriate “context” filters for ads and ad-snipes. Generally, I don’t know a single brand that would be interested in positoning themselves on a snipe on this content, unless it had to do with security, or perhaps even a PSA. This is obviously a “run of site” placement — where the brand’s ads are placed in whatever page that YouTube’s serving engine deems appropriate in order to fulfill a specific numeric quota of impressions.

Don’t get me wrong — I am aware that several ad serving engines work to place ads in the context of the content that surrounds it. But those algorithms are inclusive, not exclusive. And, then when it comes to UGC (user generated content) that is uploaded on a daily basis which cannot be meta-tagged using text parsing engines, can you imagine the man-power that will be necessary to manually tag each and every one? Who will be the arbiter of that decision?

In my opinion, brands that decide to do run-of-site placements with UGC video sites have marketing departments that are smoking dope. In this case, someone at Revlon actually thought it would be a good idea to not just run ads on specific content, but allow YouTube’s community and the company to pick the context for their messaging.

We’ll have to see if Revlon’s agency will catch this, and if there will be a backlash from advertisers in general as more of these arbitrary content-ad pairings will obviously be made.

Finally, I reloaded the page a few times, and soon several other run-of-site ads starting popping into place. Here are a couple more. At least the Vegas one is somewhat in context :-).

Click to enlarge.Click to enlarge

So — what’s the solution to this? Well, let’s start with the obvious. Let’s start acknowledging that online advertising is not the “do anything” step-child of the media business. There would be lawsuits being filed right now, had a Revlon ad been placed within, for example, “Pimps and Hos” on the Spike network. Of course, the issue is, media planning would never let such a placement take place. The reality is, most agencies are good about media buying, but there needs to be a very steep and fast change in the way online media is allocated as we get into user generated content as being the primary mechanism by which people get their online entertainment. We need to assemble some sort of systemic body that creates a standard, and a meta-tagging infrastructure. We need for advertisers and their media agencies to adpot this standard.

Of course, some will argue that none of this matters, and that consumers understand how to view online ads differently from the context in which they are presented.

To those who make this argument, I’d just like to say: “you twits!”

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Reader Comments (3)

I noticed this very same thing while surfing on Youtube a while back. Except in the case of the Prostitutes & Revlon... I was watching a commercial for a Skyy vodka and to the right of it was a completely DIFFERENT brand showing off their liquor. I refreshed it a few times and wasn't able to get the same ad, but it does make one think..how does Youtube really choose advertising content? ...And how much trouble you think they will be in after Skyy sees a competitors ad on their commercial?!

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