78% of marketers believe the reputation of their brands has been harmed by the "unintended" placement of digital ads next to inappropriate content, a new study from the CMO Council has found.

Drawing on a survey of 316 marketers, as well as qualitative feedback provided by numerous senior brand custodians, the San Jose, California-based executive network, along with Dow Jones, the news provider, revealed that the "inadvertent association" or "negative adjacency" of ads to offensive, extreme or otherwise undesirable material – be it images, topics, audiences or conversations – remains a widespread concern among industry leaders.

The main source of this problem is programmatic advertising, which uses automated media-buying to reach specific audiences. While this strategy – a tactic employed by 63% of survey participants – offers precise targeting, it is frequently connected with a lack of control in messaging placement. This is especially true when ads are run through open exchanges, which acquire inventory across almost limitless online destinations.