Illegal drug and adult websites use ads from legitimate brands, and 38% of businesses have no idea

It’s a worrying fact, that the legitimate content your marketing team have spent months perfecting could be being displayed on illegal or abusive sites completely without your knowledge.

New research commissioned by content verification company, Project Sunblock, has revealed that a third of UK brands have no insight into where their display advertising is appearing online.

Consequently, wholesome brands are being tarred with the same brush as sites found in the darkest corners of the Internet. According to the data, around 7.78 billion display advertising impressions are served alongside brand-damaging content each year, including sites peddling malware, illegal drugs, violence and pornography.

Looking at the figures, marketers were asked what is the most negative online content they could be associated with, and the experts agreed that pornographic websites are the most destructive to brand reputation.

Unfortunately though, 62 per cent of senior marketing professionals have no way of gaining access to real-time analytics on their marketing efforts. This means that around £2.4 billion is being spent each year on buying display advertising that could end up anywhere online.

Consequently, Project Sunblock has introduced a new user interface to its content verification tools in the hopes of ensuring greater brand safety online. The company claim that with their interface, users can gain access to analytics and protect their brands from appearing next to damaging content "in just 3 milliseconds."

“Now that technology like Real-Time Bidding is the norm, the buy and sell of digital advertising is becoming more instantaneous and harder to track than ever before,” said Andrew Goode, Project Sunblock’s COO. “Big brands are effectively allowing their collateral to be hosted on illegal or sexually explicit websites, and each time that happens, brands are putting money in the back pocket of criminals.”

The news comes in the same week as Google and Microsoft agreeing to implement a block search results containing child pornography images. However Project Sunblock argue that this is only the first step forward in a marathon of changes. Pornographic sites are funded by advertising, so it’s a simple fact that the responsibility of cutting these individuals’ profits lies, ultimately, with brands and advertisers themselves.