Did Google Earn the Fail Badge or did the Advertiser?

Periodically you’ll see a post where someone has collected “epic fail” (and not just on the Fail Blog) screenshots of ads gone wrong. The serious plane crash news article next to the banner ad for discount tickets on the same airline that crashed. The diet pill flash banner across a forum for recovering anorexics. A recall notice with a coupon code site for $5 off your next purchase of the same item. You know the ones I’m talking about.
In fact this post on The Business Insider about Google’s Worst Ads Ever, got me to thinking about how these ads come about and who is exactly at fault. In the case of an airline displaying a discounted tickets banner ad on the same site as a story about their plane crash- that’s their fault. Negative keyword lists are there for a reason. Their keyword list should have been loaded with words like “crash” “faulty” “failure” “strike” and “breaks guitars.” Then if their ads appear next to stories with those negative keywords, then it’s Google’s fault.
The most common seen “it’s Google’s fault” is typically when dynamic keyword insertion goes awry. So in the example below, the ad is clearly almost entirely dynamic and is inserting the word “terrorist.”
If you run an HVAC school you’d have negative keywords, but “terrorist” probably isn’t one of them. And why would it be? It’s not on your keyword list either, right? So how did that word get in there? (Provided that they’re not completely retarded and simply selecting “add all” when the keyword tool returns 350 results.) Clearly there’s an issue here of correctly targeting relevant content and serving the ad with the right dynamic insertion. Hopefully the advertiser is checking their search query and placement performance reports to help themselves and filter out these kinds of things.
Sometimes Google just straight up earns that fail badge. In this example, the ad is clearly not using dynamic insertion, it’s way too specific in it’s ad text and reads well. Yet it’s being displayed across a video that the advertiser would obviously not want to be associated with their ad.
Their negative keyword list might include words like “abuse,” “brutality,” “rodney king” and “wrongful arrest,” but as an advertiser, how could they foresee that “Deputy Shown Kicking Teen Girl” would come up? I went and found the original video on YouTube to see what it was tagged with: “wa jail video raw deputy shown kicking teen girl” and with the description: Surveillance video released in an assault case against a King County, Wash. sheriff’s deputy shows him kicking a young girl, slamming her to the jail cell floor and striking her repeatedly. The deputy has pleaded not guilty in case. (Feb. 27)
There is no longer a Google ad displaying with the video….can’t say they didn’t learn. That or the advertiser blocked it.
Some are just funny….Lesbian online dating and YAML coding language were meant to go together!
But when you look at these, keep in mind, that despite Google’s targeting flaws, they are still way ahead of their competitors.
CNN is no longer showing banner ads across their crime section. I looked.
While these gems of advertising gone awry are funny, they often equal wasted advertising dollars. So avoid the “epic fail” and run those search query and performance placement reports. Google yourself. Go to the sites you’re advertising on and look around. It’s not a perfect system, but it is continually improving, we just have to help ourselves a little too!

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