"Brand appropriate" is a stupid term which agencies and advertisers use to CYA when they don't want to figure out how to reach their customers in user-driven spaces such as social networks, video and photo sharing, etc. The occasional unfortunate juxtaposition of a banner ad next to inappropriate content is used as justification for why a more conservative approach to online media makes sense.
Bollacks! First, this is where your customers are so you're going to need to figure it out. Second, it's a media buyer afraid to lose their job over a stupid anomaly when they should be freed by their management to explore all types of engagement. Third, consumers aren't idiots and get that "this part of the page is for random content, this part is for ads" - i.e. they don't see a McDonald's banner on Buffy's MySpace page to be direct sponsorship and endorsement of everything Buffy does.
I actually think a slowdown or recession will speed the embracing of social media - brands will be forced to find low-cost ways of reaching their most engaged target customers and be willing to take risks to drive revenue.
And it's exciting to see some agencies starting to push brands to take this next step into social media. A NY Media conference produced some gems:
Chief Digital Officer of Ogilvy: "always asks the marketing department how many access YouTube—the response rate is never more than 30 percent: “How can you understand the online world when you don’t experience it the way your customers do?”"
David Carlick, managing director, VantagePoint Venture Partners: "you have to go to where the people are and attach yourself to what they want to do. So if the consumer wants to watch videos of people getting drunk and taking their clothes off, that might be where your brand should be. “I don’t think the consumer feels guilty, sitting there saying ‘I hope no one’s watching what I’m doing - oh, there’s McDonald’s - why are they advertising on this site? What a bunch of sleazebags.’ That’s not what happens.”