Media quality report H2 2017: Brand safety Q&A

05/03 By Matt Engstrom

The latest edition of the IAS Media Quality report for H2 2017 featured U.S. media quality brand safety benchmarks from the U.S. and around the globe. H2 2017, saw many headlines lauding the challenges brands face in ensuring their advertising appears in safe environments and adjacent to risk-free content.

Many of the questions we received during our webinar, Transparency in Digital, specifically revolved around brand safety. We received many thoughtful questions. Below is a list of some of our favorites and our responses.

Q: What do you evaluate to measure brand safety in video? ?

We dynamically analyze content based on multiple variables in the environment such as copy, inbound and outbound links, files, and metadata inputs. We continuously score and rescore web pages based on risk categories and thresholds. This approach ensures that if the environment changes, our models will still protect brands.  

Traditional models, such as exclusion lists, tend to be limited and inefficient. Plus, this method eliminates entire domains, rather than the specific pages within a given domain that pose harm to brands, which could negatively impact the ability to scale.

Q: You mentioned the Charlottesville Unite the Right rally as an example of an event that created new brand safety challenges. What are other examples?

Charlottesville is a strong example of how media events can create brand safety hurdles. The term “Charlottesville” itself became potentially threatening as it relates to the event that took place there.

Any media event that raises topics that are risky for brands can be treated the same way. The Harvey Weinstein scandal is another great example. The New York Times broke this story on October 5, 2017. Despite there being some initial increase in the number of advertisers blocking the name and related terms, the story took longer to permeate throughout media outlets. As a result, it took more time for advertisers to start blocking against terms related to the scandal.

It’s also important to think about real world content. “Harvey Weinstein” became an increasingly blocked term as the 2018 Oscar Ceremony approached because of the likelihood that the once prominent film producer would be mentioned in relation to the year’s nominees. This demonstrates how a term that was previously benign to advertisers not only became risky as a result of news, but also grew more threatening as negative media coverage increased. In this case, the media ramp up was initially slower and so too was the increase in advertisers aversion.

Q: Today’s political climate is polarizing and many of the top stories surround topics that are not aligned with brands’ safety standards. Have you seen an impact there?

Yes, absolutely. Brand risk challenges as they relate to political coverage can be complicated. Topics such as terrorism, for example, can constitute very high risk when the content stems from a violent terrorist organization itself and contains violent or inappropriate content. However, news coverage around the topic would constitute only moderate risk as the content may contain risky elements, but the context is informational.

Political coverage is no different. Stories making political headlines increasingly touch on  salacious or risky topics like hate speech, violence, and sexual impropriety. These are topics that exceed many brands’ appetite for risk. In these cases, brands need to partner with providers who can offer dynamic risk mitigation solutions to protect them from these challenges as they arise, but also allow flexibility for brands who are more comfortable with controversial news to allow their ads to appear within that content.

In the U.S., the last election cycle has left political media super-charged. Publishers garner huge amounts of traffic with big headlines covering the latest developments in national politics. It’s essential for risk-averse brands to protect themselves from an increasingly volatile political news cycle, and it’s clear that advertisers are taking note.

We found that the number of advertisers that have blocked terms relating to coverage around the current administration, such as “Trump,” has increased dramatically. This increase is likely the result of the risky subject matter that many of these news stories contain.

Q: We are especially concerned about brand risk within platforms, such as social, where there is more user-generated content and we have less control. Are brand safety concerns being address on social platforms as well?

Yes, and your ability to address these concerns on social platforms will only improve. Social platforms create a unique value for advertisers. They allow for targeting based on criteria that allow brands to reach the hyper-focused audiences who are the most relevant to their product. Social media content also creates unique opportunities for brands to distribute advertising in new ways that garner user attention and drive action. However, these capabilities come with a price.

Social platforms provide advertisers with less control over the type of content their creatives are placed adjacent to. Additionally, user-generated content is harder to control and can create unexpected risk for brands. However, social platforms have taken steps to address this challenge. Media coverage around the topic as well as pressure from a growing number of global brands has incentivized them to partner with third parties, like IAS, to measure brand risk.

The next stage of this evolution will be for social platforms to leverage 3rd-party verification technology to actually block advertising based on dynamic risk criteria as defined by each individual advertiser. This is yet another example of the industry coming together to improve the quality of digital advertising for all markets.

Have more questions? Check our our other H2 2017 Media Quality Report Q&A’s below:

H2 2017 Fraud Q&A

H2 2017 Programmatic Q&A


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