Digital advertising used to be so simple – find the right site with the right audience, serve your ad, hope it’s engaging enough for a click and - Hey presto! – you have a sale.
Brands had no further insight into a person who clicked, other than an action was taken. That person was faceless but, if they bought your product, frankly it didn’t matter.
Suddenly though, it did matter. The Googles, Facebooks and Twitters of the world created vast platforms capable of gathering data points quicker than an SNP vote on Scottish independence. Suddenly, programmatic advertising was de rigeur, delivering a brave new world where brands could (for a price) delve into an individual’s behaviour, follow them around the web and deliver specific messages.
The end goal remained (and remains) the same – increased sales. But now there is another question: If a given individual is consuming undesirable content and your ad appears next to it, what then? What’s the morality here?
No brand wants to be associated with extremist or hateful content – as the increasing number of brands have made plain with announcements to pull all ad activity from Google – but if that individual then buys the product, which accounts department is going to refuse the money?
Perhaps ignorance is bliss after all…
The Guardian has pulled all its online advertising spend from Google's services after it found some ads for its membership scheme appeared next to extremist content, the newspaper reported.