"So how did all this inappropriate juxtaposition of Prando's ads occur?" I asked the chairman of the improbably-sized investment company Prandeamus Asset Management when I visited his office this week.
"Do we really have to talk about it?" he replied wearily. "This is one of the most embarrassing episodes in my career which, as you will be well aware, is really saying something."
"I'm not here to make you feel uncomfortable - well, not much," I continued. "But I do find this whole business of evolving advertising technology fascinating. Not so long ago, organisations would simply take out a page in a magazine - or, more often, not if it was one I writing for - or they would rent some billboard space or perhaps do a bit of sponsorship.
"Now, however, as it often does, technology has made things so much easier yet at the same time so much more complicated. So how does it work?" "Oh I don't know," sighed the chairman, rubbing his temples. "As usual these days, my main role is signing the cheques but, the way I understand it, my soon to be ex-media buying agency thought it would be good if Prando's had some exposure on YouTube.
"And, when you put it like that, it sounds a splendid idea. I know I keep reading how these social media-using ‘millennial' types don't have any money but presumably they will one day and, when they do, it would be nice if Prando's figured in their thinking as a destination for it. What my media buyers did not mention, however, is the process is not quite as laser-targeted as one might like.
"As far as I can make out, the Prando's ads were entrusted to the tender cares of some awfully clever software that buys up spaces on new YouTube pages the millisecond they become available and then our ads and everyone else's on the programme are rotated through them. Unfortunately, the software's ability to distinguish between sites is less impressive than its speed and sometimes our ad positioning is not as we might wish."
"Ah, robo-advertising," I nodded. "I wonder if there is a lesson here for other walks of life as clearly it can be something of a double-edged sword." "It certainly stabbed Prando's this week," sighed the chairman. "This time the positioning has been entirely inappropriate and utterly mortifying and all we can do is instigate a complete review of all our advertising procedures to make sure that it never, ever happens again."
"So how long exactly have Prando's ads been appearing on the Financial Conduct Authority's YouTube page?" I asked. "Again, I have no idea," sighed the chairman. "All I can say is they are not any more - and nor are they appearing on all these extremist websites either, which is also - I should add - something of a relief." "Yes, I'd imagine it would be," I nodded.
"And on that note, it has been interesting to see the FCA itself moving so quickly to stop its own ads appearing on inappropriate pages. I see the watchdog has taken a similar line to Prando's - that it is disappointed its ads have appeared next to some less than ideal content, it is extremely concerned and it has urgently raised the whole thing with its own media buying agency.
"Still, beyond that, do you think the FCA will have drawn any kind of a life lesson? I mean, now it has found out from its own experience that, despite its best intentions and efforts, the occasional advertising faux-pas can still occur, it might treat similar lapses by members of Her Majesty's financial services industry differently in the future?" "Gosh," said the chairman. "What a wonderful world that would be."
"Hang on," I said as a thought struck me. "Doesn't Prando's have a YouTube page? Couldn't you and the FCA do some sort of ‘contra' deal?" "Very funny," said the chairman. "But … hang on a second - hasn't George Osborne just waltzed into an editorship of a big newspaper as pretty much a first proper job in journalism? How does that feel for someone who's been doing it for more than 20 years?" "I suppose I deserved that," I said.
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