Contextual advertising has been a big hit over the past half a decade or so, though I wonder whether it suffers from a kind of shotgun approach, whereby you can simply choose a bunch of keywords, pull a lever, and then put your feet on the desk. 

Sure, this is typically better than blasting out your message without any concerns about targeting, but it's almost too easy to reach the masses, and you can end up with egg on your face. Context isn't always a positive thing.

As with all advertising, the creative elements of a campaign are meant to stand out for the right reasons, yet every year we see amusing new examples of contextual advertising that's gone wrong in some way. 

Here are 16 of the more ironic ad placements I've seen over the past year or so (most of which are contextual). They are often funny, ridiculous and horrendous all at the same time.

Perhaps we'll see less of them in the years ahead as targeted advertising tools evolve, but for now we should understand the importance of choosing a few negative keywords when you programme your next campaign.

Strap in!

AOL Autos



Families Worldwide






Medal Of Honour

American Express

Civant Skincare

Bad Idea T-Shirts

Have you seen any other examples of unfortunate ad placements recently? Let us know in the comments area below.

[Image via Tyson Stole's marvellous slo-mo self-egging video]

Chris Lake

Published 17 January, 2013 by Chris Lake

Chris Lake is CEO at EmpiricalProof, and former Director of Content at Econsultancy. Follow him on Twitter, Google+ or connect via Linkedin.

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Comments (7)

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I wonder if "always" and "jesus" were intentional. The Always one is gross, but funny. The Jesus one might be intentional as pushback against the video.

The rest were pretty bad...

over 5 years ago

Chris Lake

Chris Lake, CEO at Empirical Proof

Hi Mickey,

You're right, though given the subject theme we might ask ourselves whether or not this is accident or design? ; )


over 5 years ago

Gary J. Nix

Gary J. Nix, Founder, Brand & Marketing Consultant at The BRANDarchist

I did see one of those overlay ads for "1600 Penn" where one of the characters jumps into the frame and "knocks on the window" with a silly smile and such. The problem is, the lead story on the AOL homepage was something horrible like a school shooting or some other type of disaster.

over 5 years ago


Malcolm Gibb

Haha, brilliant. Just highlights the importance of staying on top of current affairs and making sure of proper negative placements to avoid these egg in the face moments.

over 5 years ago


John Thom

There's only one thing to do in order to stop online ad c**p - AdBlock Plus.

Maybe These ad networks are not as advanced as they would like to be...

over 5 years ago

Chris Knowles

Chris Knowles, Web Designer at The Data Octopus

Seems like the theme for most of these is an advert next to bad news, I'm sure most advertisers would tick a 'do not show next to negative news articles' box.

over 5 years ago


Matt Stannard

Some great examples of advertisers (or indeed platforms) not allowing "context" to be considered.

I personally also find this a big issue with some brands and remarketing, many don't stop even when you've brought the product. I was remarketed Shrek tickets (and still am). Much as I loved the show, I wouldn't buy tickets the day after!

It shows marketers need to have a clear strategy, think about which channels work and understand (which those above may not have) how events may have a different effect on that campaign.

over 5 years ago

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