British Air Spot Next to Plane Crash Coverage on CNN

I’m watching CNN on a Virgin America flight from JFK to SFO, and the lead story (at 10:25am Eastern) is the of a cargo plane near Shanghai that killed all 3 Americans on board. At the next break, the second commercial is for British Airways — a spot built around China’s Canton Fair, a 3-week event at which (according to the voice-over) $2 billion dollars a day trade hands.

Eek, airline ads bumping up next to news of airplane crashes?!

For years I’ve been asked by marketers how I’ll protect their brands if they run ads on blogs that allow comments or sites like Digg, where readers select the stories that get promoted to the homepage. My answer has always been: The same way CNN does it. “If, god forbid, there’s a plane crash, CNN must cover the story. So someone in CNN’s traffic department immediately pulls all airline advertisers out of rotation until that news cycle passes.” While humans are still better than algorithms at avoiding (or recovering from) these kinds of awkward associations, the CNN approach — as I just witnessed — remains an imperfect system.

Do I now need to find a new example with which to answer that question, or should I just point out that those uncomfortable situations you fear will happen online are also happening on TV?

  1. # abdpbt said: November 28th, 2009 at 6:52 pm

    I would point out how many times this kind of stuff happens not just on TV but in print media. People seem to think the internet is somehow different and more dangerous than other forms of media, when it’s really just the same issues all over again, in a different context.

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