By now, we’ve all seen the video of Dr. David Dao being dragged off that United flight. As a marketer married to a public relations professional, I have been following this story to the point of near-obsession. Big company PR blunders never cease to amaze me (hello Samsung, Carnival Cruse Lines and Wells Fargo) because the executives at those companies are supposedly a lot smarter than me and yet still prone to step in it. But when it comes to the latest United nightmare it’s not so much about their PR disaster but the underlying power of content to damage any company.

I’m not talking about customers posting videos of your products or employees screwing up. At least you know about those. I’m talking about the harmful content that you don’t know about.

According to a USA Today article, the “Facebook Killer” shot an innocent man and then posted a video of the crime on Facebook. It was there for two hours before Facebook learned about it and then it took an additional 23 minutes for Facebook to take the video down. This was a horrible, senseless, disgusting tragedy and advertising should be the last thing on people’s minds, but chances are there were ads right next to that reprehensible video.

Click over to YouTube where companies including L’Oreal, McDonald’s and Audi pulled their advertising because it was placed next to videos from white supremacists and the Islamic State. Again, great brands were unwittingly next to awful content.

YouTube and Google say they are going to do better. With the insane volume of content posted each day, one has to ask how they could possibly weed out all questionable content, even with an army of staff and powerful algorithms? There’s no way.

Digital display ads can be just as bad, if not worse. Do you know where all your digital ads go? Are your ads only next to reputable content on reputable websites?

Nope. For the past few years, we have been developing ad placement software called Adsperity to easily create mobile ads, flight them and then analyze where the ads actually end up. This helps to eliminate money lost on bad audiences and sites. A few agencies allowed us to analyze some of their campaigns. Turns out a good chunk of digital ads were appearing not anywhere near targeted customers but on some truly nasty websites.

Are your customers going to be frequenting those sites? No. Do you want to waste your ad dollars on those sites? Hell no!

Showing up next to a video of a crime or hateful content is another story. Big brands can take the brand hit, pull their ads and keep on chugging. Medium to small brands could really be affected.

That’s why Google and Facebook are so freaked out. Deep down, I think they know there’s no way to ever have a 100 percent foolproof system. Same goes for digital advertising. So what’s a smart marketer like you to do? Go “old school” and take control of all the facets of your marketing, including venue. It’s not as hard as you think and we’re here to help!

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