Savvy clients usually require their media buying arm or vendors to provide notification of when and where the clients' ads will run. Television stations and cable systems have the ability to provide rather exact spot times such as date, time, program, pod (if you require it) and will do their best to keep competitive spots from running back-to-back. Radio is not as exact, but within a 15-minute window.
Print positions are usually negotiated, or placed near content. Manly ads near manly articles, etc.
The outdoor (Out-of-Home) process is a no-brainer. Find location. Determine traffic count. Choose. Negotiate. Buy.
Advertisers and clients should be concerned about where ads will run (or display) for a single, simple, reason: to protect the brand.
Yet, online display networks (banners, towers, etc), with the targeting and measurement mechanisms practically built-in, can not, will not, or do not tell advertisers on which specific sites their ads will run. Understandably, if the ad is being targeted, the network may not know at that time on which site an ad will run. However, they do know which sites are part of the network.
Thus, the question: why won't ad networks disclose sites?
The patent answers to this question are weak. It's proprietary, it's a contract, it's against company policy, the sites request that the information be kept confidential, blah, blah, blah (this is not true for all ad networks. There are a few networks that will disclose the sites on which ads will appear).
Look at it in a different light. Should a retail consumer have the right to know the details regarding his or her purchase? Especially for high-ticket items? If a store wants the sale, they'll tell the consumer every pertinent detail. Yet, in theory, the information being requested of ad providers is not that specific. On which sites will my ad run?
Here's an example. A shopper spends $30K every month at the grocery store, trusts the store to choose the food that best suits the shopper, and then pays the grocer for doing it. Is it not the grocer's duty to provide some broad details, when asked?
"Where did these apples grow?"
"What supplier brought these canned goods?"
"Did this fruit come from Mexico?"
These aren't unreasonable questions. Yet, that's exactly what ad networks will not disclose. With Social Media, it's crucial to know where the ad will run. User-generated content (UGC) could be a brand-builder, or a brand-killer. A tech software company on a techies' blog that loves the product is fantastic, until the blogger has a bad experience with the software, the company, or both. There was a statistic used to train people on customer interaction... something like a consumer would tell two people of a great experience and seven about a terrible experience. Now, multiply that by thousands.
Love Social Media for what it is, but be wary. Ask questions. Negotiate the details. Ensure the brand is protected. Images displayed here are some end results caused by not asking questions or negotiating the specific details:
A Bible Software ad. It ran, per the image's description, close to Easter.
Below: Cheesecake! Yummy!
Child Abuse stories and pictures of children never go together!
Media Post's Ari Rosenberg is quite clear regarding ad networks:
Are you aware of any other medium in which clients agree to make a media investment with the condition that they are not allowed to know what content properties their ads will appear on? And yet ad networks publicly contend they protect the identity of the content brands they siphon inventory from, by offering clients buys on a "blind basis."
This post is agnostic in the fact that it neither endorses, nor denounces, online display advertising. It's simply a reminder to be safe, not sorry. Brands take years to build, often decades. Yet, they take but a moment to tarnish.