Advertising Faces the Roadblock of Whitelists


The advent of programmatic advertising has allowed advertisers to work more efficiently and effectively, but the process has also created quite a dilemma. Several brands have recently been expressing concerns over their ads being programmatically placed next to offensive and insensitive content. Last month, several brands including General Motors and Walmart halted their advertising on YouTube after their ads were displayed along with offensive and violent videos. Brands are desperately worried that the inadvertent placement of their ads next to offensive content will negatively associate their brand with that offensive content.

As a result of this growing fear, brands have started carefully selecting publishers they find reputable and placing them on a whitelist for advertising. However, in the process of carefully creating shorter, more selective whitelists, advertisers are diminishing a major benefit of digital advertising: the widespread and targeted reach of the internet. The creation of these whitelists could also potentially lead to a dramatic rise in prices for certain ad spaces that are deemed “safe.” Brands will eventually start to fight each other for ad spaces on sites that have a low risk of publishing offensive content, which will drive prices sky-high.

Going forward, brands must determine what level of risk is acceptable for their brand. They need to strike a balance between protecting their brand image through selective whitelisting and maintaining a large reach for their ads.

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Image credit:, Photo by Matthew Hamilton

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