Is there one central industry-wide brand safety definition within the ad tech space that all digital advertisers must follow? Unfortunately, the answer is no.
While there are certain ad placements that are deemed less than ideal by just about all digital marketing pros out there, there’s also a lot of gray areas and nuance when it comes to what brand safety includes and excludes within the realm of programmatic advertising.
Shortfalls with Catch-All Brand Safety Definitions
Here’s how the Trustworthy Accountability Group (TAG) has attempted to define brand safety: “The term ‘Brand Safety’ describes the controls that companies in the digital advertising supply chain employ to protect brands against negative impacts to the brand’s consumer reputation associated with specific types of content, criminal activity, and/or related loss of return on investment.”
But this definition leaves a lot to be desired. It’s hardly a handy catch-all definition that can be applied to make sure a brand’s image is not tainted by the accidental placement of an ad next to inappropriate content due to issues stemming from programmatic advertising.
This vagueness is likely on purpose. That’s because what is acceptable to one organization may be totally unacceptable to another one. For example, while one brand may be loathe to have its ads appear on fake news sites or next to controversial social media posts, others may have no qualms with it.
“Every brand has their own unique positioning, their own target audience, their own set of brand values, and really the brand safety protections that they enable should be reflective of all of that,” said DoubleVerify COO Matt McLaughlin. “While we certainly can come up with a generic definition of brand safety as a practice, what’s really critical is that every company address how they’re going to implement protection that’s in line with their own products and positioning.”
However, many brands, by and large, aim to steer clear of these content categories:
- Adult Content
- Offensive Language
- Criminal Activity such as Illegal Downloads
- Illegal Drugs
- Hate Crimes
These categories are hardly set in stone though! After all, a major beer brand would have no qualms advertising within an alcohol-related app, even if such a placement would be deemed unsafe for many other advertisers.
Brand Safety Versus Brand Suitability
In the debate on brand safety, it’s crucial to differentiate between ad placements that are not ideal versus those that are downright detrimental to the brand and it’s perception in the market.
- Brand suitability refers to content that a brand may not want to advertise against, but likely wouldn’t lead to disastrous consequences for them. An example of this in action would be an ad for GEICO featuring its gecko mascot appearing in an article on herpetophobia, which is a fear of lizards. It’s not great for a GEICO ad to appear in this kind of environment, but it likely wouldn’t lead to monetary or reputational losses for them.
- Brand safety, in contrast, generally refers to situations in which an ad is placed next to content that can put said brand into serious hot water, making it seem as though that advertiser is endorsing the content. For example, a CPG brand likely wouldn’t want its ads running next to content that seemed to promote violence or hate.
Nevertheless, ad placements that are either not suitable or not safe should be avoided. Neither one leads to an ideal situation.
How Do You Think About Brand Safety?
How do you and your chosen ad management platforms define brand safety? What steps are you taking to curtail risk? Let us know on social media! We’d love to hear from you on Twitter and/or LinkedIn.
Interested in learning more about brand safety? Be sure to watch our February 2019 webinar on demand, and to check out these resources: