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Brand Safety: Why you Shouldn’t Accept any Excuses

Brand Safety: Why you Shouldn’t Accept any Excuses

August 10, 2016

Video can make a brand, but it can break it too.

With US adults watching an average 76 minutes of video on digital devices each day, it’s little surprise US digital video ad spend is expected to see double-digit growth year on year until 2020. But video ads can have a negative impact when the content around which they are served is inappropriate, offensive, or otherwise contrary to the brand’s ethos.

YouTube and Facebook blocking extremist videos is welcome news, but the move acts as a stark reminder of the types of content video ads could end up adjacent to if the necessary brand safety measures are not put in place. Few brands would want to be associated with the notorious music video for Kanye West’s Famous, and even award winning content such as Beyoncé’s Formation video would be seen as too contentious for many brands to connect themselves with.

So how can marketers ensure their brands’ video ads are served alongside appropriate content.

Create your own definition

Each brand has its own unique perception of brand safety so what is acceptable to one may be undesirable to another. Integral Ad Science reports that of the global video impressions on networks and exchanges it processed in Q4 of 2015, almost 20% were blocked as they presented a risk to brands. While the two most frequently identified risks – violence and offensive language – would be seen as unacceptable by most brands, opinion on other risks is less clear-cut.

Alcohol is identified as a risk category and while this would certainly be the case for an automotive brand, it would be far less of a concern for a whisky manufacturer. Equally brands aimed at families or children would want to avoid video content with adult themes, but this might be viewed as suitable for gambling or entertainment brands.     

Rather than accepting a standard definition of safe impressions, marketers must consider what matters to their specific brand and their unique audience. They can adjust filter levels in certain risk categories to create their own brand safety profile, and can specify avoidance categories. A bank may want to steer clear of negative financial news for example. Marketers can also make use of keyword lists or other tools to evade specific content that may be deemed safe by other brands. Trust Metrics is one brand safety provider protecting brands from potential threats. It has a solution that screens the list of websites provided by ad networks against a unique brand-specific filter to make sure publisher sites are both relevant and brand safe.

Alternatively, some providers are exploring ways of monitoring without the need to utilize potentially unreliable keywords. ADmantX uses semantic technology to fully understand the meaning of content and context on a page URL basis. This deeper level of understanding identifies the nuances of human language and the sentiment towards a brand, product, or industry.

Use in-depth video analysis

Inappropriate content can often be found on websites that otherwise appear safe.  This means the ability to analyze individual web pages including URL, images, language, and links is necessary in addition to website whitelisting. Analysis must be taken to an even deeper level for video advertising, where simply evaluating the text on the page is not enough to know what the video is about. Marketers could consider a solution such as Veenome, which assesses in-stream video content including visual frame content and the video’s audio track to identify potential risks.      

Block high-risk impressions in real time

Simply highlighting potential brand safety threats for further consideration is useful, but impressions can slip through the net while these insights are being processed so blocking questionable inventory is preferable. Real-time content verification allows all page content to be scanned and scored for brand safety before the ad is served, to determine whether or not it is appropriate for that specific brand. Integral Ad Science currently provides the only solution that stops ads hitting the ad server if pages do not meet established risk thresholds.

Combine brand safety with other metrics

While maintaining brand safety is paramount, there are other key factors that should be assessed when determining the suitability of video inventory, such as viewability and fraud. Marketers may want to look for a solution that measures multiple factors simultaneously such as Comscore’s validated Campaign Essentials (vCE), which combines metrics on ad viewability, fraudulent impressions, and the geographic region in which ads were delivered, with brand safety scores. Another provider that offers reassurances when it comes to brand safe viewability is Moat.

It only takes one misplaced impression to tarnish a brand’s image so action must be taken to avoid ads being served adjacent to inappropriate video content. Fortunately there are many solutions for brands to consider so there shouldn’t be any excuses when it comes to brand safety and marketers will benefit from partnering with an SSP that can guide them through the maze of brand safety providers to find the solution that best meets their needs.

(As published on MarTech Advisor)