Few stories have been as disruptive in recent months as Google’s blind spot around extremist content. With a host of top-tier brands pausing ad spend with the tech giant, the company has now revealed it is teaching its computer systems to understand offensive material.

However, Marks&Spencer and Jaguar aren’t the only ones to pull their campaigns from Google recently. Earlier this year, Coca-Cola announced that it was closing its UK YouTube channel, Coke TV, which the brand had hoped would win traction among a young target group – but subsequently failed.

Despite their differences, what connects these stories is that the brands were unsuccessful in getting their advertising context right. For today’s audiences, it’s a given that consumption is sophisticated, multi-screen, and multi-platform. Despite this, Coca-Cola opted for a strategy that saw content focused on one platform, releasing videos at a set time each week, as a linear broadcaster would.

Equally, the advertising ‘environments’ M&S, Audi, RBS and L’Oreal found themselves in were far from appropriate or relevant to the audience they looked to engage.

The ad environment

While it’s one thing to skirt detrimental content or dangerous domains in placing your ads, that’s just half of the challenge. The other half lies in delivering advertising at the right time, in the right place.

There’s nothing new in this alone, but the context of advertising is beginning to resurge in importance thanks to our multi-platform habits; the opportunity is much changed.

Mirroring advertising campaigns in two places at once can actually accelerate the path to purchase. TV and social are a great example. By captivating audiences with a traditional format such as TV, and at the same time serving interactive ads to the palm of the consumer on their digital device, two complementary engagements with the consumer can encourage them to act on their experience. In fact, research demonstrates ROI is higher when TV and digital channels are integrated.

Putting this into practice, Nice’n Easy, Clairol’s leading hair colour brand, recently took advantage of additional Facebook targeting and campaign management features enabling them to blunt the impact of the main competitor’s TV messaging. This drove consideration amongst Nice’n Easy’s core female audience in the UK with 40% higher video views. Timing and placement worked together to provide a critically effective advertising feng shui.

Guiding social ads

Who is viewing my ad? Is it being used on other sites? On what social channels is the ad gaining most traction?

These are the questions brands need answers to when it comes to knowing how effective certain advertising environments are for them.

Before committing budget to rich media ads, brands should get to know where engagement and ROI are driven as well as how publishers are using the content, whether they are social or web-based.

Investing in predictive data science enables marketers to target publishers whose audiences are currently inclined towards your brand. Furthermore, leveraging custom audience segments that can be applied across multiple ad formats and networks allows brands to capitalise on the synergy across multiple channels.

Setting expectations

It’s important not to make any assumptions and to be aware of the set up within media agencies. Often media buying teams and social buying teams are distinct, meaning the insights reaped by each team aren’t necessarily coalescing into one, clear picture of engagement.

Today, brands should expect that social media strategists and media buyers work closely together to take advantage of social’s full power to add clarity to the advertising environment and help campaigns become more reactive.

The brands that succeed at advertising feng shui understand this. SAP, for instance, drove a 13% higher interaction rate throughout the NBA Finals by using co-branded creative with Under Armour designed around important moments such as three pointers, dunks, lead changes and flagrant or technical fouls.

Equally, brands must be aware of the fact audiences are platform-agnostic in how they consume content. This means creating bespoke content for every environment, with all platforms being treated equally in importance. It’s an approach that aims to let the audience, not the content creator, decide where, when, and how they consume.