by Doug Knepper, VP of Sales US & APAC
Brand safety is still topping the news agenda, with Cisco the latest to pull ads from YouTube amid negative adjacency concerns. But by focussing their efforts on avoiding the blatantly damaging ad placements portrayed in the media, brands are overlooking the far more nuanced concept of brand suitability.
As a recent MediaPost article explains, brand suitability is about more than just avoiding ads running alongside obviously inappropriate content such as terrorism or hate speech. Caught between the top tier of premium inventory and a base layer of obviously unacceptable material there is a large pool of online content including news reports, opinion pieces, and entertainment content that is suitable for some brands and unsuitable for others.
Ensuring basic brand safety to avoid negative adjacency is the shared responsibility of platforms, publishers, and advertisers, and some progress is being made in this area. Defining and applying brand suitability, on the other hand, is the sole domain of the brand and its agency partners. Each brand must form its own guidelines for inappropriate and damaging content, as well as determining which placements are most likely to attract and engage its intended audience.
Defining and enforcing brand suitability means taking brand safety to a third level:
The first level of brand safety is blacklists and whitelists, which either stop ads being served on domains that are known to be unsafe or identify pre-approved safe domains where ads can run. While these domain-level techniques are effective in preventing ads appearing alongside certain types of content such as fake news, they only provide a very basic level of protection across the board.
The second level of brand safety takes place at page level and identifies common categories of questionable or inappropriate content that could hurt brand reputation, including violence or pornography. As long as advanced technologies such as semantic analysis are used to understand the context of content, rather than relying on ineffective keyword filters that miss risky placements or result in false positives, this second level keeps brand ads away from universally damaging content.
The third level of brand safety – the one that ensures brand suitability – takes a far deeper dive into the meaning, context, and potential implications of online content. First, vertical-specific categories are created to identify content likely to be either damaging or advantageous to certain industries or sectors. Second, custom segments are created for individual brands taking into account their particular products and brand values. This deep level of fully customised protection drives ad placement to the right context through granular page-level analysis, taking into account the true meaning and sentiment of content.
To ensure ad placements are not only safe but also suitable, brands must go to the third level of brand safety. By conducting granular content analysis at page level to place ads in the right context, and personalising ad positioning in accordance with brand values, brands can protect their reputations while effectively engaging their audiences.
ADmantX offers all 3 levels of Brand Safety, however we encourage Advertisers and Publishers to move towards the 3rd level, which delivers personalization of the ad placement in accordance with the brand’s values and company’s requests for guaranteed effective protection for the brand.