Campaign reported data from Project Sunblock, a content verification firm, which revealed that 38% of advertisers didn't know where their ads were being displayed, while 62% of senior marketers had no way of gaining access to real-time analytics on their online marketing efforts.
What this meant, according to Project Sunblock, was that £2.4bn being spent annually by brands on digital ads that could end up anywhere on the internet. And it cited evidence that 7.8bn display ad impressions were served alongside brand-damaging content each year.
When asked about the kind of content that would be most harmful to their brands if their ads appeared alongside it, marketers put pornography at the top of their list. Other damaging content included pro-terrorist and pirated material, adverse PR such as that generated by the UK's horsemeat-in-food furore, natural disasters and celebrity scandals.
While there was clearly an awareness of potential risk, just 22% of marketing decision makers were using content verification platforms to measure the effectiveness of their campaigns.
In addition, over half of senior marketing professionals said they would pay a premium to prevent inappropriate placements or to increase the visibility of their advertising.
A separate survey indicated that visibility is rising up the marketing agenda. Digital agency Undertone polled 600 advertisers, agencies and publishers and found that 80% of brands expected viewability to be an important or very important issue in 2014.
Most (62%) were planning to work directly with a third party measurement company, while 25% expected to use ad server viewability technology. A further 19% accepted an MRC-accredited solution from their media vendor and just 9% of large agencies had no plans at all in this regard.
Publishers, however, were not necessarily on the same wavelength as advertisers, said Adweek, as 53% of the former reported that the issue of viewability had had no impact on the design of their web pages. Just 17% had increased the number of ads above the fold while 22% had decreased the overall number of ads on a page.
But online advertisers may have more than viewability to worry about, as a recent study by market research company IRI, also reported in Adweek, suggested that non-category buyers accounted for half the audiences reached on average.
"A media plan based upon a randomly selected target audience would have performed just marginally worse in terms of wasting impressions on this particular segment," the report author said of a campaign attempting to sell dog food.
Data sourced from Marketing, Ad Week; additional content by Warc staff