How Good Banner Ads Can Go Wrong

Microsoft was recently treated to the spectacle of a banner for its FrontPage98 product appearing on a sex site called Chrissy’s Hideout, an X-rated site that encouraged visitors to call an overseas hotline for phone sex.

The Microsoft banner was in a rotation, along with at least 10 other advertisers including Sony, Sprint, and Ziff-Davis, on New York City-based The Globe, a community of more than a million user-generated home pages, according to Adweek.

It’s unclear how long the banners ran on Chrissy’s Hideout. What is known, Adweek said, is that the hideout is gone, as are Microsoft’s banners.

The Globe said that both the existence of the porn page and the ad placement were oversights. The company forbids the display of pornographic content in its community of more than 160,000 user-generated home pages.

But the price of the gaffe? Apparently, the publisher is out $250,000, as Microsoft pulled its business.

Adweek said in its story that “while uncommon, such costly ad misplacements serve as a sobering reminder that for all the niche marketing opportunities the medium affords, the Internet remains a vast, and at times uncontrollable environment, especially for user-generated sites.”

Ted Bremer, marketing manager for the desktop applications division of Microsoft, was quoted as saying Microsoft is willing to do business with The Globe again, but only after it is assured the company is filtering its content.

Humans and software agents patrol the entire Globe community for evidence of profane verbiage and imagery. The company has also developed Matador, a profanity filter, to keep its chat regions clean. But Globe representatives are unsure how the advertisements on Chrissy’s Hideout went undetected.

“This was an absolute aberration and an absolute mistake,” said Susan Berkowitz, director of sales and marketing at The Globe.

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