Digital advertising that appears adjacent to "objectionable content" risks alienating almost half of a brand's potential customers, according to a new study published by the CMO Council, an executive network for marketers, as part of a research program with Dow Jones, the news provider.

Drawing on a survey of 2,000 people from North America and the UK, the two organizations found that when marketing messages are shown alongside material which is considered to be offensive, a range of negative reactions result:

  • 37.3% of respondents would "change the way I think of the brand when making a decision to buy";
  • 10.5% outlined a willingness to "boycott or not do business with that brand";
  • 9% were likely to "be vocal and complain or raise issues about this".

Although not all shoppers immediately abandon products or services that advertise (intentionally or otherwise) in proximity to unpleasant online material, most agreed their perceptions would be meaningfully altered. "A remarkable 66% of consumers say their respect for brands decreases when they encounter ads near hateful, inappropriate or distressing content," the "Brand Protection from Content Infection" study said.