Ads from major Australian brands including Foxtel, Subway, CommBank, Westfield, accountancy firm ITP, Destination NSW, and railway service The Ghan have been appearing on a site which generates racist aboriginal memes. Among the online ad networks serving the ads is Google’s.
Memegenerator.net/aboriginal appears to have been the source of images that populated a controversial Facebook page which last night had its offensive content deleted after generating a national outcry.
The jokes include reference to petrol sniffing, alcohol problems and joblessness among aboriginal people.
Memegenerator, which is registered in the US, allows users to create an image and place text alongside it to create alternative messages on a theme. One if its sections is dedicated to the aboriginal meme.
Ad served by Google's Invite Media
Ads on the site are served by several online display networks including Google. Some of the ads are served contextually, based on a browser’s previous surfing behaviour elsewhere on the web.
Although brands do not directly choose to advertise on a site, most will only use online ad network which guarantees theywill not be next to risky or offensive content.
Dan Johns, CEO of media agency Ikon Communications, whose clients include CommBank, said in a statement:
“The reality is this space is growing by the day and we need to make sure that we’ve got the best processes, the best tools to ensure that risk is minimised. Ad Networks have long been the focus of criticism for failing to provide advertisers with adequate transparency and brand safety. As with all online advertising, Ikon recognised that it is critical to have a number of steps in place to ensure our online advertising only appears in brand safe environments when utilizing ad networks and exchanges. Ikon have put in place a number of processes to ensure that the risk is minimised at all times. This includes:
“All network buys must provide an upfront site list that is vetted by the Ikon team against set criteria; Partnerships with AdVerfication companies such as AdXpose and Double Verify; Peer39 (for exchange buys) pre-emptive targeting away from text based content that might be detrimental to the brand or campaign.
“By moving towards increased transparency in our online buys, it is Ikon’s aim to make online advertising transparent, safe and accountable. It is our belief that greater levels of transparency, will lead to incremental investment in digital, as the channel becomes more accountable as a brand platform. Any sites not deemed brand safe, are removed from our site lists and the relevant exchange is informed/removed from our buying system.”
A spokesman for Google told Mumbrella: “Google understands that brand protection is, and always has been, critical for the industry and for online marketers. We are laser-focused on creating a safe environment and give ad buyers granular control over the sites to which they target ads – for example they can exclude specific sites, all anonymous sites, categories they do not want to appear on, or they can limit their ads to top 1000 sites. We don’t comment on specific sites, but if a site violates our policies about inappropriate content, whether intentional or not, we take quick action and stop serving ads to that site.”
Destination NSW/ Westfield ad
Intentionally cropped by Mumbrella
Facebook continues to decline to comment.