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Brands that advertise online have growing concerns that their brand’s image may be adversely affected by the placement of ads near certain types of offensive content. How bad is the risk? A new YouGov survey of more than 2,000 US adults reveals that almost one-third of US adults who see an ad alongside offensive content believe that the brand being advertised is endorsing that content. By contrast, fewer (20%) believe the ad is not endorsing the content.

Baby Boomers (ages 55+) are the generation most likely to believe that the brand in the ad is endorsing the negative content (35%), whereas Gen Xers (ages 35-54) are more ambivalent, being almost as likely to say they feel the brand is endorsing as they are to say that the brand is not.

Even when people don’t feel that the advertising brand is not actively endorsing the offensive content, they have a negative response. To wit, almost half of respondents view a brand more negatively when its ads are placed alongside offensive content, and only 28% feel unchanged about the brand. In a similar survey that focused on ads which played during offensive YouTube videos, a corresponding 41% of respondents had worse impressions of the brand as a result, and 36% believed the brands were actually endorsing the offensive content.

Brands might be justified in being concerned about ad placement. Nearly half of US adults say they see offensive content online at least a few times a week. The types of distasteful materials that people most frequently encountered are racist (60%), sexist (54%) and anti-LGBT (37%).

In a recently-released study, Integral Ad Science noted that in the second half of 2016, 8.6% of all US display ad impressions and 8.9% of global video ad impressions were flagged on objectionable content.

About the Data: The results are based on a YouGov survey of 2,269 US adults, 1948 of whom have seen offensive content online.

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