Machines are now primarily responsible for purchasing digital advertisements and choosing where they run, but some recent embarrassments have shown that they don’t always get it right.
This month, for example, advertisements from Citigroup, IBM and Microsoft found their way onto the website of an Islamist extremist. This follows an investigation by The Times about radical YouTube videos featuring ads for brands such as Marie Curie and Mercedes-Benz. In both cases the fault can be traced back to programmatic advertising.
So, what is programmatic advertising, exactly? And why does it lead to these unseemly mistakes?