For those not in the digital media industry, Google Content Network (or GCN) shows ads next to articles which contain words that an advertiser has bid for in the Google system.
So rather than a user having typed a word in (which is what you normally do with Google), a user may be reading an article about a that topic and an ad will appear to the side in a box “ads by Google”.
It’s a very cheap and very effective way for you to create awareness for your brand and its relevance to certain topics. e.g. does your brand have a point of view on corporate responsibility and sustainability? Well people read a lot of stuff about this subject, so you can run an ad that says “visit our site to see what we think about global warming, and what our company is doing about it”.
Which makes this ad below especially intriguing.
Perhaps the advertiser here did not specifiy a strong enough set of negative keywords (i.e.a list of words that, if they appear in an article, would block an ad from appearing). Were Virgin simply trying to buy words like “plane” and “India” and “travel” etc, and failed to block the word “crash”. If this is the case, then this is a pretty embarrassing slip up, especially for an airline.
Or is Virigin actually intentionally advertising a course aimed at people who have a fear of flying on a site which specifically includes both the words ‘plane’ and ‘crash’. Pretty gutsy marketing if this is the case, but then again what better place to find people who are (or who suddenly have!) a fear of flying.