Screenshot of the IVROSE website.
On Sunday Elle Magazine published a story about a journalist who fell in love with controversial former pharmaceutical manager Martin Shkreli. The story was an instant hit.
But soon one of the many juicy details of the story struck me: an ad featuring a woman in pajamas who revealed half of her derriere. For many of his readers, the story was plastered over several times.
As a Sunday, I read the story on my phone and flipped past the dozen (50 by my count) mobile ad placements. I noticed that I kept seeing the same thing over and over again. An ad for “IVRose” featured a woman in a checked romper pajama set with a front view and a back view (partially exposed) and the promise of a 70% discount on the sale.
On Twitter I saw that I wasn’t alone: The butt-flapped pajama lady found her way into the Elle story for all kinds of readers. And not just there: she had a recipe for crock pot chicken. It was on the San Francisco Chronicle.
The ads that served me through Google Ads were placed because of my “similarity to groups of people the advertiser is trying to reach” [my] Activity on this device, “according to Google. Google referred to its guidelines on adult content that restrict the conspicuous viewing of sexual body parts (including visible glutes), but would not say if it falls under this policy.
But to me, it’s just the latest shitty ecommerce ad that’s running all over the internet these days. I get ads for shirts with sassy sayings, socks related to farts, outerwear with giant cats wearing scarves, or various optical illusions. But none of them caught the eye of as many people as the butt flap pajamas. There are a number of ways that this particular ad could get onto many people’s screens at the same time.
It’s hard to say for sure without speaking to the IVRose, who didn’t return a request for comment, but after chatting with a handful of ad tech experts, it seems possible the company is targeting popular articles, which would explain why this was so prevalent in Elle magazine history on Sunday night. Brand security technology could also have helped open the door to less cautious advertisers. And by the end of the day, instead of just glazing over it, we might all have noticed because there is an exposed bum.
It is unlikely that they were closely targeted
With such a large number of people receiving the ad right away, it seems that very little targeting has been done, or at least so loose parameters that many would fit in those buckets. But that would have resulted in an extremely expensive campaign.
Ratko Vidakovic, the founder of ad tech consultancy AdProfs, assumed the ad would run programmatically and said it was likely too expensive to just run the ad with no restrictions. He said programmatic ads could spend thousands of dollars per second if there isn’t meaningful targeting. Not only is this inefficient use of a budget unlikely that the company would have enough cash to advertise its pajamas.
“Just judging who the advertiser is doesn’t seem to me to be an advertiser who has a bottomless budget, doesn’t intend to play on words,” said Vidakovic.
Vidakovic said his guess is that there are some restrictions on this campaign. Perhaps this means targeting specific websites with some geographic restrictions. It could also be far more specific, targeting items that are trending, which seems believable given all of the people who have seen the ads on the Elle article at the same time.
“It is possible that they are targeting URLs that are very popular at some point,” said Vidakovic. “This is one way of being very surgical about spending a budget that creates this kind of illusion without having an advertising budget of 7, 8, 9 numbers.”
According to Vidakovic, the actual design of the ad is likely very intentional too.
“If Taboola and Outbrain taught us anything, it is these shocking images and things like that that get people’s attention and that people tend to click,” he said.
Dropshippers and the like seem to have gotten a lot more visible this year, and that could be because we’re a lot more quarantined online.
“These people have become very adept at figuring out where to buy ads on legitimate websites so they can get noticed now that we’re constantly online and attracting more legitimate advertisers,” he said Ana Milicevic, director and co-founder of Sparrow Advisers.
Advertisers can choose how often they want their ads to show to people so that the same person doesn’t show the same specific ad hundreds of times. “Sooner than later you will reach an upper frequency limit … and then all you have left is this pond foam as I would describe it,” she said.
Krzysztof Franaszek, founder of the personalized ad analytics service Adalytics, found that a number of brands blocked their ads from the Elle article. Businesses often use technology to prevent their ads from running alongside certain topics.
If certain brands are preventing their own ads from showing in a story, especially those with a higher budget for bidding on placements, it can open the door to advertisers who may have a lower budget.
According to Franaszek, the CPMs, or the rate advertisers pay for impressions, were pretty high for the IVRose ads. In a small test, he said they were between $ 10 and $ 12.
“It means that whoever the brand pays for these ads is likely paying a not insignificant amount,” he said. “They don’t put CPMs on the bottom of the barrel.” He said the company is also retargeting so product ads can “follow” people in the area.
The butt flap ad is a reminder that there is no great way for people to choose who to or not to hear from via digital ads.
“There are a lot of brands I would like to hear about and there is no really easy way, or really, there is no way for me to say, ‘Never show me a dropshipper. But over the next six months, I’ll be renovating my house and I want to hear only or mostly from house renovation people, “said Milicevic. “This mechanism doesn’t exist.”