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

The executive network, and Dow Jones, the news provider, surveyed 316 marketers, as well as gathering qualitative feedback from numerous senior brand custodians. (For more details, read WARC’s in-depth report: Programmatic, brand safety, and the need for new strategies.)

And it 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 of widespread concern.

More specifically, some 67% of participants stated that sub-optimal “adjacency” had hurt perceptions of their brand qualities and values, while 50% said the same for brand affinity.

Programmatic advertising, a tactic employed by 63% of survey participants, is often the culprit in putting brand safety at risk, but the reservations among marketers run much wider.

"It is clear that all marketers, regardless of their involvement in programmatic buying, are concerned with the risks and vulnerabilities that their brands face online, but the biggest issue of them all – transparency and accountability of media buying – stands out as the greatest issue threatening brand security and customer engagement," the study said.

Further datapoints from the study included the fact that 43% of contributors had experienced “some type of problem in how their advertising was viewed”.

Another 33% were concerned about ad misplacement on “problematic channels”, while 32% mentioned “viewability or placement” worries and 26% referenced ongoing anxieties around “media buying transparency and accountability”.

To date, however, a relatively modest 27% of marketers have pulled ads from digital channels because of failings linked to “negative adjacency”. Similarly, just 11% had been able to implement “containment plans” in this area when the need arose.

“[I]n these early days of programmatic buying, marketers are doing more learning in the wake of issues than taking rapid action in the midst of a crisis,” the CMO Council’s study said.

Sourced from CMO Council; additional content by WARC staff