When advertisers hurt your brand

The other day when I was on whitepages.co.nz I kept getting this tasteless banner ad:

Not only did I find the ad irritating and gross, I thought less of the White Pages brand after I saw it. It is an animated GIF banner, where the piece of poo actually flies across the ad from left to right and then hits the spinning fan, making the whole banner go brown. Nice.

Whoever at the White Pages approved that banner ad for publication should be fired.

I have also seen plenty of ads placed in email campaigns that hurt the brand. Here’s an ad in an internet.com newsletter that cheapened the JupiterMedia brand while simultaneously flagging the email for spam filters (the Alt tag associated with this banner ad was “Work From Home” — a terrible thing to say in an email campaign if you want your campaign delivered):

It always amazes me how email ads get approved when it’s so obvious that they are going to cause the campaign’s deliverability to tank. Like this one:

Some people think email marketing is horribly expensive. If only they knew about VerticalResponse. We give you the power to create, send, and track your email campaign, right from your web browser — for less than 1c an email! NO set-up fees, NO contracts, NO hidden charges. And it’s easy, too! See for yourself by creating your own test mailing — FREE. Get started today!

Some big no-no phrases in the above email ad, including: “no hidden charges” and “see for yourself”.

In short, your website and your email campaigns are a reflection of your brand. The advertising you accept for display on your site and in your emails is also a reflection of your brand. So think carefully before you take on an advertiser or accept a creative that isn’t “on message.” 

About Stephan Spencer

5 Comments

  • Hello Stephan,

    I am interested in learning where you found the VerticalResponse ad. If this is an email you received, who was the sender? Are you a subscriber or was this straight spam? I am the marketing manager in charge of advertising at VerticalResponse, and this in not my copy. It seems to me to be an endorsement of sorts from the first two lines, but then switches person to the “we”.

    Certainly much of the copy is taken from our email ads and our webpages. We do like to point out our pay-as-you-go pricing difference from other ESPs, but I’ve never used “NO hidden charges,” “1c a mail” or many other phrases used here. Please let me know who’s sending out messages tainting our good name and great brand.

    Best Regards,
    Robert Schloetter

  • Stephan Spencer says:

    Hi Robert,

    The VerticalResponse ad was from several years ago now. So it probably pre-dated you. It was in the Email Marketing Weekly newsletter, and yes I was a subscriber.

    I’ve included a screenshot of the newsletter below (the red circles are mine to highlight the text that triggered SpamAssassin’s filters):

    Emai Marketing Weekly enewsletter screenshot

  • TMJ says:

    I suppose you were talking about the alt attribute of the img tag, not “the alt tag” as the text reads.

  • Stephan Spencer says:

    Yes, TMJ, that’s what I meant.

  • […] brand will be judged by the most noticeable content on the page. Stephan Spencer wrote about how a tasteless ad affected his perception of one particular brand back in 2006, and eight years later, online […]

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