I love programmatic banner buying as much as the next guy, but some days I can’t help worrying about the future of online advertising.
Of course there’s the viewability crisis, where 54% of banners are delivered outside the viewable area of a browser, and therefore can never be seen by human eyes. Among ads delivered by ad networks, it’s even worse: 69% of them aren’t viewable. Then there are all those ads served intentionally (and fraudulently) to software bots trying to act like web-surfing consumers. Even among what’s left — viewable ads served to human beings — I would argue that plenty of money is wasted on over-aggressive re-targeting.
And then I came across this.
A friend submitted an anonymous tip to the ChasNote hot-line. It’s a link to this story at LA Times (headline above) introducing new allegations of drunk driving to the ongoing story of booze-fueled violence by a Los Angeles Dodgers fan against Bryan Snow, a fan of the rival San Francisco Giants. The submitter was pointing out an awkwardly placed ad for a brand of vodka, but he didn’t include a screenshot, only a link to the story.
By the time I followed the link to the LA Times, the vodka ad had been replaced by this one (above), for Tanqueray gin. It appears to the team here at ChasNote that some automated ad-targeting software — software developed by an ad-network that manages certain inventory for the LA Times — created a bidding war among alcoholic beverage brands for this drunk driver story. Oy vey. And, for extra credit, it placed an ad for Hertz Rental Car below the Tanqueray ad. Really unfortunate, eh?
But, wait, you say. It’s quite the opposite! It’s brilliant re-targeting!
I did, in fact, book a car with Hertz at its website the night before, so this is actually state-of-the-art targeting aimed at predisposed customers, right? It’s wasteful targeting, in my view. I literally bought the company’s services 12 hours prior, and if I book another Hertz car 12 hours later it’s because I had a good experience interacting with the product and personnel. An advertisement of any kind, at that point, would have nothing to do with it. Offering me a 30% discount when I’m likely (given my behavior in the most recent 12 hours) to pay at full retail is actually kind of stupid.
I’m also a fan of Tanqueray’s product, though I haven’t made that official in Facebook nor have I visited the brand’s site in the past year. Maybe someone’s been combing through my receipts from the grocery store?
Still. It’s awful, in the opinion of this longtime Hertz and Tanqueray customer, to see these brands running alongside a drunk-driving story. Not great to see them running alongside each other, either. I’ve got to believe we can do better.