In today’s digital environment, brand safety is more challenging than ever. From fake news to other questionable content, advertisers are being forced to be more careful and cautious in navigating their media supply chain.
Brands like Cisco and Sonos recently had to pull their ads given brand safety concerns and these are only two examples among dozens who have had to do similar in the last year. Interestingly, social media—where most of these issues have occurred—has also made it even more likely that brands appearing alongside unsavory content will be called out in real-time. Every miscue is now under the spotlight, instantly challenging a brand’s reputation. So how is the industry dealing with it?
To dive deeper into the state of brand safety, Oath recently partnered with Advertiser Perceptions to poll more than 300 U.S. ad execs about their concerns. Most are taking the actions necessary to ensure the integrity of their brands. But there’s more that can be done. Here are three critical findings every marketer should know.
Brand Safety Concerns Are Growing
According to the findings, the overwhelming majority of advertisers—99 percent—worry about whether their ads will appear in brand-safe environments. Additionally, 58 percent of advertisers are more worried about brand safety this year than they were last year. We’ve even seen that manifest at Cannes Lions, where some glamor was replaced with more sobering discussions about trust.
It’s up to ad platforms and media partners to win over the confidence of advertisers. Tech platforms—including demand-side platforms (DSPs) and exchanges—are most effectively addressing advertiser concerns. Seventy percent of advertisers feel that DSPs and exchanges do a satisfactory job dealing with these problems. A recent focus on vetting inventory—think high-quality content that is professionally produced—plus efforts to tackle fraud and viewability issues is having a positive impact. But advertisers are split when it comes to other media partners.
Fifty-one percent feel that social media platforms do a good job, while 45 percent think there’s space for improvement. What’s more, only 54 percent of advertisers feel that user-generated content (UGC) sites address their concerns, while 42 percent say they don’t. Clearly, social platforms have a lot of work to do given the nature of their inventory—UGC that is not developed professionally and often distributed without quality controls.
Brand Safety In Action
With brand safety now a major issue among advertisers, they’re having to change their programmatic buying strategies. Half of the respondents we surveyed say they’re pressuring their partners to screen for brand safety, while 45 percent are shifting their ads to premium publishers with good reputations. This has created a massive opportunity for high-quality media brands in their efforts to lure ad spend away from Facebook and Google.
Additionally, 40 percent of advertisers now use whitelists with programmatic partners, and 44 percent find blacklists to be an effective method. Whitelists and blacklists both use a combination of in-house and third-party tools to monitor where ads are delivered and prevent ad misplacement in advance. Across owned and operated sites, contextual targeting can also help prevent advertisers from coming in contact with unsafe content.
Lastly, of all the advertisers we polled for our study, only 3 percent say they have no actions planned to combat brand safety. With the way things are trending now, these advertisers might want to rethink their strategies so that they don’t run the risk of threatening their brand.
Partners Need To Lead
The big takeaway from our study: advertisers are concerned—and ad-buying platforms and media partners need to lead on brand safety. In order to minimize risk, partners need to take more reasonable and effective steps such as manual and automated vetting, installing whitelists/blacklist capabilities, incorporating pre-bid filter systems, bringing on third-party auditors and developing a comprehensive takedown policy. Social media networks have the most work to do because these channels mainly rely on user-generated content—making brand safety inherently challenging to manage.
Brands have never been more important and marketers spend billions each year to raise awareness and build brand love with their customers, but it only takes one misstep to change consumers’ minds. That’s why concern about brand safety issues has reached a fever pitch.
In this environment, content publishers and platforms will continue to feel the pressure to bear the responsibility to address brand safety concerns and provide effective solutions. The good news is that brands and agencies are sensitive to the problem and are grappling with it in a number of ways. It will be interesting to see how this growing concern about brand safety changes the advertising industry moving forward.
Jeff Lucas is head of Americas sales and global teams at Oath. In this role, he manages Oath’s sales teams in the US, Canada and Latin America as well as global teams including RYOT Studio and agency partnerships. Before his current post, Lucas was the vice president and global head of sales at Snapchat and prior to that served as the head of marketing & partner solutions at Viacom.