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A 4-step guide to improving your Brand-safety online

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2017 was a particularly eventful year for advertisers and publishers alike.

After events of the magnitude of Facebook’s Cambridge Analytica Scandal or YouTube’s Ad-pocalypse, the Ad serving ecosystem had to undergo a lot of changes.

At the heart of most of the debates that ensued after last year’s debacle was the question of who should control/have access to advertising data.

Publishers (large and small), found themselves, almost overnight, obliged to become more transparent and allow their users to learn more about the advertisers serving them ads. Publishers also had to give control to their users over the data that they were collecting about them; which had an impact on the size of primary and third-party data that they had access to.

Things did not end there, publishers also found themselves under a lot of pressure from advertisers who demanded to have more information about where their ads were displayed and what type of content associated with their brand; hence, brand safety became a marketing buzzword!

So, what is Brand Safety?

Brand safety refers to all the precautions that brands take to protect their brand’s reputation online. It is mainly achieved through the monitoring of where a brand’s advertisements are displayed to ensure that they do not appear next to next to any inappropriate, controversial or illegal content.

As you can imagine, brands started caring more and more about brand safety after YouTube’s ad-pocalypse scandal:

On February 2017, the wall street journal released a report showing ads from large brands (like Coca-Cola, Procter & Gamble and Amazon) being displayed next to anti-Semitic, racist and homophobic content. That led to these brands, as well as hundreds of other large brands pulling their ads from YouTube.

YouTube had to tighten its rules in order to deal with the ad-pocalypse crisis and reestablish advertisers’ trust in the platform.

On the other hand, advertisers began worrying about their brand safety more than ever before.

Here are 4 actions that you can take today to regain control over your ads and protect your brand’s reputation from being associated with questionable content online:

Opt for a smaller number of publishers

A year after the ad-pocalypse, large brands seem to have ended their boycott of YouTube. However, their strategy on the platform seems to have changed.

Most of these companies decided to limit their advertising to a smaller number of channels on the platform so as to be able to have greater oversight over the content associated with their brand.  For example, Procter & Gamble has cut down the number of channels it was advertising on by 97%.  From 3 million to only 10 000 channels!

The trend quickly expanded beyond YouTube. JP Morgan who used to display its ads on more than 400 000 websites, reduced that number to only 12 000 sites.

Scaling down the number of publishers that you associate your brand with makes reviewing the type of content that they publish easier.

It’ll also allow you to restrict the display of your ads next to content that you deem damaging or incompatible with your brand.

If you’re worried that such a measure might impact the performance of your campaigns: JP Morgan’s CMO Kristin Lemkau confirmed that even after the bank renounced 97% of its ad inventory, it did not see any significant drop in campaign performance.

Implement a Blacklisting strategy

Nowadays most advertising platforms give more control to advertisers over where they want their ads to appear. The advertisers’ main tool for managing the display of their ads are these platforms’ Blacklisting tools.

Blacklisting a website prevents it from showing an advertiser’s ad. Advertisers can therefore effectively choose where they want their ads to be displayed even when the ads placements that they’re using are bought automatically through programmatic platforms.

Advertisers can also whitelist websites that they have previously blacklisted, which means that the decision to blacklist a website is reversible; making it easier for brands to decide quickly on what publishers to keep and which ones to exclude.

Most Large advertising platforms, also allow marketers to exclude specific webpages/ad placements instead of entire websites; hence giving them even more control over where their ads appear.

Identify unsafe content

Using blacklisting requires that you know exactly what type of content you don’t want your ads to be displayed with.

The list of unsafe content that you will create will obviously include content that is universally judged as harmful: Controversial articles and videos, illegal content, pornography, etc.

You should, however, remember to include content that other brands accept but is utterly incongruous with your brand.

If you’re a fast-food chain, you should then think about excluding all of the content the anti-meat content that might repulse your potential customers.

Time to start spending your marketing dollars on Private Marketplaces

By the end of 2017 private marketplaces (PMPs) rose to prominence as one of the most brand-safe ways of buying ad inventory for programmatic display advertisers. eMarketer estimates that advertisers spent 74.5% of their 2017 programmatic budget on private marketplaces.

By including private market in their advertising strategy, brands can buy ad inventory from premium publishers who are less likely to contain objectionable content. PMPs also allow advertisers to enjoy all of the benefits of programmatic advertising: Enable real-time optimization, reduce human error and complexity and leverage greater access to first-party data.

Now that Brand-safety is a top priority, advertising platforms and publishers will continue improving to offer advertisers greater control over their ads.

That being said, brands should be proactive when it comes to monitoring where their ads are being displayed and prompt to fix any problems that might impact their image online.

Robert Janes