March 23, 2006 4:00 AM PST
Blue-chip ads, red-light content
Earlier this month, that was the actual pitch for a video that's available on the "Girls Girls Girls" playlist at the popular Ifilm Web site, complete with advertisements for the new MacBook Pro and AT&T's broadband service.
Those weren't the only companies sponsoring the video, which shows a parade of apparently high-school-age girls in skirts walking up to and over a shoe-top video camera. After clicking on the thumbnail image, a media player window pops up, displaying the video, which is labeled "mature" on the site. Next to the images is an ad for Comcast that blurts, "It's Comcastic!"
Informed of the juxtaposition of the ads and the video, and other ad-and-video juxapositions of arguably dubious taste on a second Web site, AT&T said it was looking into the matter.
"AT&T has advertising policies to ensure our ads are placed in appropriate mediums consistent with the company's brand," AT&T said in a statement. "It appears the sites in question were part of a large buy vs. a specific target. To date, we've had no complaints or concerns. We are reviewing these sites, and if we determine that it is an inappropriate placement, we will discontinue advertising on those sites."
Apple declined to comment.
Seeing ads from blue-chip companies such as Apple and AT&T next to sexually charged or graphically violent videos may be shocking to parents and corporate marketing departments, but it should hardly come as a surprise. The growing popularity of sites that rely on user-generated content--from blogs to podcasts to homemade video clips--and the continuing embrace of the Web by Fortune 500 advertisers almost ensures that such a collision would occur.
"It's not a unique problem to video," said David Card, an analyst with Jupiter Research. "There is a reason why in Web 1.0 it was difficult to monetize chat rooms. A lot of people didn't want to advertise there."
Clearly, mainstream companies are unlikely to want to see their ads next to questionable content. But it can happen when they or their ad buyers participate in networks in which they target a specific demographic.
Take, for example, a telecom company advertising broadband access services to young adults on a Web site that features bandwidth-intensive videos. The ad buyer in this case is dependent on the site where the ads appear to be diligent in screening and properly identifying content the advertisers don't want their ads to appear next to.
A Comcast spokeswoman said the company had no idea its ads were next to mature content on the Ifilm site until informed by CNET News.com.
"This was an error that was made and it's been corrected. We are taking steps to ensure that this doesn't happen again," said Comcast spokeswoman Jenni Moyer. "The bottom line is we had no intention of having our ads placed alongside this content on their site."
Roger Jackson, vice president of content and programming for Hollywood-based Ifilm, which is owned by MTV Networks, said ads should not have appeared next to video clips the company has rated "mature." At the time of publication, Ifilm was implementing a software-based fix to resolve the problem "so even search results pages will not have any mature content in them that matches with an advertiser," he said.
"I'm assuming it's a one-off bug," Jackson told CNET News.com. "I'm frankly astonished that you have a screenshot (of ads next to mature video clips) because we've spent thousands of hours as a company over several years coming up with systematic solutions to issues like this that keeps both our advertisers and our users happy."
Ads for AT&T also showed up on the site of free video hosting site VidiLife.com, in the "Sinful Sirens" channel next to thumbnails for videos with titles like "lingerie bowl 3," "Lap Dance" and others even more salacious in nature.
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