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United Airlines Halts Digital Ads Following Controversy

April 12 2017
suhyeon-choi-184102-2.jpgSince the news broke about an over-booked United flight on Sunday that resulted in a passenger being dragged off the plane by security, the brand has put the brakes on their digital advertising spend. This is not the first time an advertiser pulled their online ads in response to scandal in an effort to shy away from more unwanted attention. In United’s case, the past 48 hours have been very telling for the airline that was spending an average of $36K per day on digital during the thirty days prior to the incident. Yesterday, the brand spent less than $2K on digital advertising.

United Airlines Ad Spend.png
The graph above represents United’s digital activity over the last 30 days across desktop, mobile, desktop video, and mobile video. On March 17th, the brand’s spend surged as high as $88K on that day alone. Looking at the last part of the graph, United’s spend is dramatically trending down to zero.
Let’s take a deeper look at that 48 hour period. On April 9th, the day the situation unfolded, United spent over $56K on digital ads across desktop/display and mobile placements, running 55 unique creatives across 197 sites. Spend was primarily through direct buys, accounting for 86% of the spend share that day, with top partners MEDIA iQ, DoubleClick Bid Manager, and Collective also cashing in. On April 10th, spend dropped to just under $26K and only 47 creatives were detected across a total of 77 sites. DSP and ad network partners were still being used for indirect ad buys.
Yesterday, on April 11th, less than $2K was spent on digital advertising for United. Pathmatics detected 17 creatives running across only 14 sites including,, and All ad tech partners for the brand were cut out from Monday to Tuesday, except for Google AdX + AdSense and Exponential serving up a small percentage of United’s placements yesterday. This controversy not only affected United, but also several of their ad tech vendors no longer bringing in any ad dollars from the brand.

What's Next?

How do you think United will respond digitally to the unwanted press this week? The brand may either take a cue from Wells Fargo and release a new campaign centered on customer service, or wait it out before turning the dial back up on their usual campaigns. Let us know your thoughts in the comments.

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Image Source: Unsplash

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About Author

Jordan Kramer

An out-of-the-box thinker with a love for disruptive ideas, Jordan's background spans PR and events for the wedding & hospitality industry in Los Angeles and Scottsdale and also launching one of America's most unique food trucks. She jumped from the food start-up scene to the tech start-up scene in 2013 to join one of the most unique companies in ad tech. Jordan is a graduate of the University of California, Santa Barbara with a Bachelor of Arts in Communication.

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