How to report a crappy ad

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NOPE cross stitch from Etsy seller StitchesOfAnarchy

As the online advertising market continues to shift, we’ve been using more third-party advertising options on the Offbeat Empire. Historically, I’ve tended toward native advertising (which means placement we sell ourselves, like Offbeat Bride’s Vendor Guide listings or vendor spotlights)… but these days we’re shifting more toward serving up ads delivered by ad networks (banners that are sold and delivered by third party companies).

With these third-party ads, sales run layers deep. We work with a company called Sortable, who serves up banners from ad networks like Google’s AdSense, OpenX, Sovrn. Each of those ad networks, in turn, work with their own ad sales merchants, who sometimes contract to other ad sales networks, and bla bla bla. It’s ads all the way down.

What this means for y’all, the Offbeat Empire’s readers, is that sometimes you might see ads on the Empire that are awful and gross and just like, NOPE THIS DOES NOT BELONG HERE! Meanwhile, because of how ad networks work, we might not even be seeing the ad.

I mean, there’s different kinds of gross here, right? Sometimes this grossness is subjective (like, say, Uber and their corporate controversies… I do not like them as a company, but their ads aren’t objectively offensive), and then there are ads that are straight-up inappropriate — mature content, scams, porn pop-ups, ads that redirect you to spam sites, stuff like that.

If you see an ad that you think is objectionable, here’s what you should do:

  1. Grab a screenshot before you do anything else. Different ads are shown to different readers, depending on your geographical location, device, browser, etc. We don’t see what you see!
  2. Look for a “Report Ad” link. Lots of the ads served up by Sortable have an option to report a shitty ad directly to them! This is awesome because it submits all the information they need to remove it from our site.
  3. If you don’t see a “Report Ad” link, then you can email us directly. Be sure to include as much info as you can in your message, stuff like:
    1. A link to the page where you saw the ad
    2. A description of where on the page you saw the ad
    3. A link to the screenshot where we can see the ad
    4. Where you’re located, geographically
    5. What browser and operating system you’re using (ie, Safari for iPhone, Chrome for PC, etc)
    6. Why you think the ad is objectionable (if it’s not immediately obvious)

Also, just to say the shitty truth that no one wants to say: these ads are how we can stay online. As business of online publishing continues to shift (why, Facebook, whyyyyyyy), I’m doing my best to adapt… but it’s an ongoing challenge.

Serving up third-party ads is especially challenging because a lot of the control is out of my hands. In some instances, I’m five layers away from the ads being seen by my readers. That can be super frustrating, but it’s just the nature of online publishing these days.

There’s no perfect solution… I absolutely prefer native advertising, but it takes a lot of time to sell and produce, and it’s not always going to be the thing that works. Affiliate revenue is great, but it’s only a slice of the pie. If third-party ad networks are what allow us to keep the sites online, then that’s what I’mma do… but I super appreciate it when readers take the time to tell me when they see something icky being served up!

Comments on How to report a crappy ad

  1. Thanks for posting this. A couple days ago while reading through the mobile OBH site I was getting a pop-up that redirected me to a different site…I should have screen-shotted it bc it was super annoying. If it happens again I’ll let you know via this process!

    • Any chance it was this one?

      …because several readers complained about that, and Sortable was able to clean it up pretty quickly.

      Then this morning someone complained about seeing a porn ad… so if it ain’t one thing, it’s your mother! 😛

  2. It’s awesome to hear that you’re using Sortable! I work there! Since, like, 3 months ago. Nothing customer or product-interacting, but it is a great place to work. I’ve been following Offbeat Bride since 2009, I think? And my wedding was featured a few years ago! I like finding connections like this 🙂

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