On Thursday, CNETnews.com published an article titled Blue-chip Ads, Red-light Content and it really fired me up.

The article described how the New, New, Really New AT&T had online ads running in mature sites next to sexually explicit videos. Plus, AT&T wasn't the only one mentioned in the article; Apple, Verizon, and Cisco were also prominently featured.
I found the article a little tasteless because as someone that ran consumer online advertising for AT&T a few years back, I can tell you that advertising on mature sites is not part of their strategy and I'm sure the ads were run by error on those sites. Case in point:
While running an online acquisition campaign, some of our online ads ran in Excite's ClubExcite channels as part of a media buy on Excite.com. What ended up happening was a new manager in Excite's ad operations mistakenly scheduled the ads to run across the network without exception. Once we found out, the ads were pulled down within 15 minutes. However, the story didn't end there.
A division manager in another group received screen shots of our ads running across, let's just say, sites that I would never have visited for fear of the FBI confiscating my PC. He then sent those screen shot to my boss, Director Karen V. And, if that wasn't bad enough, Karen was not in her office when the email arrived, so her assistant, Melissa, started printing out color versions, which I promptly destroyed.
Now, why would this division manager send over the pictures? I'm sure he thought he was doing his job, but I never bought that reasoning. Obviously someone ran the ads by error, which was corrected immediately, but to send the file over was about knocking yours truly down a peg.
On a side note, I couldn't bring myself to look at one of the four pictures, but I always wondered about the customer who found the ads originally. I also believe this customer received free long distance minutes for calling the ads to our attention.
What lessons did I learn from this? Simple. When you buy large amounts of media, especially on a network or a portal you must take the following 5 steps:
* Always confirm the type of sites in the network or portal.
* Ask your rep specifically about porn and gambling sites and channels.
* Develop an opt-out process for sites that you don't want in your buy and write it into your contract.
* Speaking of the contract, you should not pay for ads that are run in areas that you opted out of and in fact, should be given make-goods.
* You need a list of contacts from the top down to ad ops so that the ads can get pulled ASAP.
Blue-chip advertisers running in red-light sites, is no story at all. It is much to do about nothing because I'm sure it involved human error. The only action that comes out of that story, is to put heat on some marketing manager that is already worried enough about keeping their job.

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Eric Frenchman is an online marketing and advertising consultant located in the Great State of New Jersey and Chief Internet Strategist for the online political agency Connell Donatelli Inc. Since 1998, Eric has managed multi-million dollar online advertising and CRM campaigns for AT&T, DLJdirect, Harrisdirect, and BMO Investorline and is a recognized expert in online marketing and advertising techniques. In 2005, Harrisdirect was ranked as the 17th largest online advertiser in the US and in 2003 was recognized as Best Financial Advertiser. Eric Frenchman's marketing blog is located here: https://www.ericfrenchman.com