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Sarah UKFast | Account Manager

Storm over ads on social sites

Advertisers' confidence in online social networks has been rocked by concerns over unmonitored content.

Last week, Vodafone suspended advertising on Facebook after its ads appeared on the profile page of the right-wing British National Party. This prompted a flurry of other advertisers, including the AA, COI and Virgin Media, to follow suit.

Peter Deane, head of marketing at AA Road, said it had instructed its agency, i-level, to remove its ads from all social networks until assurances could be given over content. Virgin Media said it would not advertise on social networks until 'definitive guarantees' were in place to ensure ads did not appear alongside offensive content.

Media agencies claim that a range of brands are similarly reviewing their approach to social-networking sites, while others, such as PepsiCo, have already put strict guidelines in place.

'Where we do not approve of a website's content, we ensure our advertising is removed,' said a spokesman for Pepsi.

Guy Phillipson, chief executive of the Internet Advertising Bureau, attributed Facebook's problem to 'growing pains', and added: 'MySpace and Bebo carve out dedicated portions of their sites that are brand-safe.'

However, a spokesman for ISBA claimed that while sites are happy to take advertisers' money, they are not investing enough in policing content. 'How long can Facebook sustain its business model when it features content from the BNP?' he asked.

As Marketing went to press, ads on the BNP's main Facebook page appeared to have been removed, but executions for 3, ITV Local, the AA and La Redoute were still in place on the site's discussion pages.

Orange has said that it intends to continue to advertise on social-network sites.

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