10 Inappropriately Placed Google Ads

by Nicole October 25th, 2010 

Google Ads really does seem so smart you'd be forgiven for thinking it's blessed with its own brain. This is particularly so in the case of the automated ad targeting in which Google's servers detect high value keywords and use them to instantly place contextual ads before your eyes. However, like any intelligent system, Google AdSense is prone to the odd lapse in its perceptive powers " heck, we'll say it, it's prone to bouts of stupidity. You see, those little ads you see or choose to ignore on the right of your screen " the ones that seem to know you so well " can sometimes be a little, ahem, misplaced. And when this happens, the results can be a little, ahem, inappropriate. Here are 10 Google ads unsuitable at best, out-and-out offensive at worst.

10. Become A Police Officer

clip_image004Image via Free Online Jokes

If you were looking at a hideously ugly example of police brutality in which a deputy viciously attacks a young girl, would you be someone at that very moment pondering a career working alongside such thugs? Thought not.

The next ad, titled Become A Police Officer, and offering online degrees in the profession, popped up on a YouTube clip showing exactly such a scene.

The disturbing CCTV footage from inside a police cell sees a girl being kicked, punched in the face, having her head smashed against a wall, then pulled by her hair to the floor and punched a further two times.

Shocked? We were.

Now ask yourself: is this an example of an ad targeting fail or is this an example of an ad targeting fail?

Google (the owner of YouTube) is starting to look like it's got the brain cell of that Neanderthal deputy. Here's a link to the disturbing original video,

9. Las Vegas Meth

clip_image006Image via Free Jokes Online

Here's an oddly placed ad that the big G cooked up when someone googled search meth crime by address las vegas.

What should appear to screen right but an ad apparently for the pernicious substance: Looking for Las Vegas Meth? Find it by location in Las Vegas.

Notwithstanding the fact that the Google user was doing criminal research, not their daily shopping for a spot of crank, but why has Local.com allowed meth to be generated as one of their random keywords?

Maybe they wanted to cover the market of people looking for methylated spirits " but given the misuses to which this substance is put by alcoholics, we're not sure that scenario is any more desirable.

Sometimes the mind really does boggle at how wrong online ads can go. At least it's possible to report these inappropriate or offensive fiends.

8. Racism

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Image via Ryan Kennedy's Blog

eBay is the next site to fall foul of inappropriately placed ads on Google " unless it's their own incompetence in getting ads served with the big G that's at fault.

As Ryan Kennedy pointed out on his blog, Someone in the eBay marketing department may want to rethink how they purchase keywords on Google. Doing a search for the word racism turns up ads from eBay offering to help you locate some racism for sale.

The ads vary, but the one that offers Great deals on Racism Browse a huge selection now! takes the biscuit.

Kennedy appreciates that eBay is just buying a large dictionary list of keywords on Google, but rightly asks: Why on earth would they buy racism?

Should someone have walked from the online auction site after the 2005 slip? You'd think so wouldn't you? But the plot thickens…

7. Baby

clip_image010Image via Search Engine Round Table

It's eBay and Google making headlines for the wrong reasons again.

Someone typed baby into their search bar and what showed up, but an ad offering exactly that, with the suggestion: Buy It Cheap On eBay, Low Prices, New and Used.

InsideGoogle explains, eBay used Automatic Keyword Insertion to include ads on a huge number of search terms that were irrelevant and sometimes offensive.

As well as the deals on racism and babies seen, ads have tried to sell skin cancer, homeless people, honky, poo, crap, pee – the list goes on.

Still, InsideGoogle doesn't blame eBay for the error. Should Google fire the person who is responsible for the party? they ask. Probably…. Its a screw-up costing millions in ad revenue, and if I caused it, Id be packing my desk right now.

6. Lee.org

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Image courtesy of Lee Sonko

In 2008, blogger Lee Sonko noticed that Google was serving up offensive (and bizarre) ads onto his site " ads fixated on the male phallus with wording like Penises. Relax. Take a deep breath and Low Prices on Enlarge D***.

After fruitless attempts to rid himself of the offending ads, Lee figured out the root of the problem.

Two of the photos he'd uploaded were titled peni[nospam]s-patch.jpg, making his the most popular [related] image site on the internet. Apparently, the two photos had their Google-juice comingled (eiw!), he wrote. And while I enjoy being a being a peni[nospam]s patch magnate, I think Ill change the name of that file so all my Google ads arent so patchy.

He did and the hit counts on the image dropped dramatically " as did, presumably, the number of penis-related ads.

5. Wolves

clip_image014Image via Failblog

This next entry, care of the fittingly named Fail Blog, figures as a pretty funny major slip by Google.

The offensive ad manifested itself on that purveyor of all things video, YouTube, served there, like a bad ace in the hole, on a page displaying a popular clip of an Arctic fox calling for mates during the Spring rutting season.

Are people interested in this natural event also going to be drawn to the decidedly unnatural spectacle of People Mating With Animals? We sincerely hope not " however much they might be blinded by the promise of 1000s of Products and a Sale!

We know it's not Google's intention to cause offence with misplaced ads like these " and it made us snigger sooner than scowl " but how can they not put a stop to it?

4. Meet Ugly Guys

clip_image016Image via Chris Abraham

The three Google ads above, which come courtesy of blogger Chris Abraham, would count as mismatches practically wherever they appeared, ranging as they do from the offensive to the downright outlandish.

The offer, however fallacious, to Meet Hot Drunk Women or Meet successfull [sic], Wealthy Guys Online we can at least see an audience for " not that the light in which they cast the fairer sex as easy lays and gold diggers is any less excusable " but Meet Ugly Guys? That's just plain weird.

What woman in their right mind would consciously seek out the less attractive male members of cyber society " although that said we do at least believe in the existence of the promised men who want to meet them back, rather than those mythical Drunk Women Who Are Looking For guys.

3. Are You a Male Virgin?

clip_image018Image via Free Jokes Online

Are You a Male Virgin? asks the next ad, which turned up after somebody googled world of warcraft. Answer: Yes. Scratch this entry. Not inappropriately placed at all.

2. Anti-Aging Store

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Image:
AskReddit via imgur

On self-help platform AskReddit.com one user began his entry: My girlfriend just got plastic surgery. It did not turn out well.

He goes on to detail how his 23-year-old other half had nose (collagen) and fat implants on her cheeks and forehead, with the changes such that he almost didn't recognize her. The distraught boyfriend reveals: When she smiles, her cheek bones become overly enlarged and it's unbecoming… She asked me what she thought and I lied… I excused myself while we were eating at a restaurant and went to the bathroom. I almost broke down.

Given the agitated mental state of this boyfriend, its not very sensitive that an ad for an Anti-Aging Store promising to Lift, Firm and Tighten skin fast without injections should appear on screen now is it?

1. Terrorism Studies

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Image: Sanyam via Mashable

Surely one of the most tactlessly placed Google Ads ever came in the wake of the 2008 Mumbai terrorist attacks " the three day spate of shootings and bombings that saw 173 people killed and a further 308 wounded.

On at least two occasions, alongside stories reporting on the tragic events as they unfolded on the news site IBN Live, ads showed up offering interested readers the opportunity to Pursue a certificate in terrorism 100% online. Enroll [sic] today.

Now we're pretty certain no sane person would want to take such a course if it were practical in nature, but even allowing for the fact that there are serious " and ethically sound " schemes of a theoretical kind, it's probably not the sort of educational option most folks want to be weighing up at such a time. Inconsiderate? Er, that's one way of putting it.

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8 Responses to “10 Inappropriately Placed Google Ads”

  1. I don't really see the controversy in #1. It's an ad for the American Military University which teaches courses about terrorism (which most colleges do). It's not an ad for how to be a terrorist.
    .-= Tamahome Jenkins recently posted: Whatever Happened to Journalistic Integrity =-.

  2. Carly says:

    Love the World of Warcraft one – what a great marketing tactic!
    .-= Carly recently posted: Free social media link booster pack =-.

  3. mike says:

    The video of the police officer taking the teen girl down. Well she kicked off her shoe at the police officer and hit him. That is assault on a police officer. Enough is enough with kids who are 5 years younger then me getting away with whatever they want. This girl deserved every bit of what she got. What did she say to the police officer? What happened prior to her going in the room?

    When I have a child, if he or she shows disrespect to a police officer, he/she has the right to slam my child.

    • Ruud Hein says:

      I certainly hear you, Mike, that sometimes it's all too easy to understand how these things happen. Not just understand but that it is understandable. Merely human. Then again, that is how professionals like police officers are somewhat different from you and I: they're trained no too be reactive but to be professional.

      It's a bit (far) outside of the topic of this site but I appreciate you sharing your views, Mike.

  4. Im not really coming to Google's defense here, but a lot of the adverts shown above (apart from the ones which I thought would violate their T&C's like the terrorism and racism ones) arent really Google's fault – it is the advertiser who has paid for their advert to show for the keyword searched.

    However, these were amusing with their justaposition. :-)

  5. Luis says:

    This is shocking. Sell a baby on eBay was actually a listing unnecessary.
    I think this is the problem of contextual ads. I always I track which ads appear on my site, because I know these problems.
    Very good your research.
    Thanks for sharing.