Brand Safety in 2020
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May 14, 2020

Digital advertisers faced their first big brand safety issue a few years ago when it was found that major national brands’ ads on YouTube were placed next to ISIS recruitment videos. This resulted in brands’ reputations unknowingly taking a big hit.

Things have somewhat spiraled out of control since then. A poll of U.S. marketers, conducted in 2017, found that 68% said their brand had been exposed to “brand safety” issues. Furthermore, it reported that, despite YouTube’s brand safety issues, publisher sites, Twitter and Facebook all ranked as having higher risk.

The Problem:

Nobody wants their brand’s image tainted or associated with the wrong sort of messaging. Avoid implementing brand safety measures, and you run the risk of threatening your business. Brand safety has had some unfortunate, unintended consequences for publishers as it’s given them less inventory they’re able to monetize.

For advertisers, being overprotective of where their ads appear has had drawbacks. Block lists guarantee advertisers brand-safe placements but they also come with a hefty price in terms of limited reach and engagement. As more advertisers feel the costs of limited inventory through the use of block lists, they are considering placing advertising on content at the margins of their standard brand-safety strategies.

All About Balance:

Brand safety raises a clear concern: if publishers generate revenue from brand-friendly content, they will in turn prioritize this type of content only. This will greatly impact the neutrality of content published, and it means that publishers are putting advertiser needs before readers’ needs, whereas the focus should always be on the audience.

Focus On Loyalty:

The first step is to measure revenue alongside reader engagement. By focusing on the long-term success that comes with loyal readers, publishers are able to find the sweet spot between content that challenges and informs readers, and content that entertains and appeases advertisers. By encouraging readers to interact with the publication as an entity, rather than on a story-by-story basis, they can measure the effect that brand credibility has on reader revenue.

The second step is to have a multi-layer monetization strategy that can be applied automatically for different types of content, where publishers can have more options for the weighting of advertising across these content types. This will ensure higher revenues from brand-suitable content while de-prioritizing content that advertisers want to avoid.

A New Approach:

Publishers are adopting a new, more nuanced approach to brand safety that is more focused on finding places suitable for their ads than avoiding inappropriate content. Ultimately, these publishers must figure out how to strike the right balance between being very strict on brand safety versus achieving the level of reach they need.

With today’s more advanced contextual technologies, better alternatives to blacklisting exist. Some companies offer brand safety, brand suitability, and sentiment analysis on the webpage level.

To sum up, publishers should not be forced to give advertisers what they want, but create content so valuable and unique that the audiences they attract can’t be ignored by advertisers.

Use Case: check out Klangoo’s ad-filtering solution for Postmedia.