Tailoring your brand safety strategy

07/10 By John Bonanno

Brands invest a significant amount of time creating an image, cultivating consumer perception and fostering associations. However, in digital advertising, nearly 1 in 10 ad impressions is surrounded by unsuitable or inappropriate content that can damage brand equity built up over years.

The CMO Council found that more than 3 in 4 marketers believe their brands’ reputation were harmed when their digital ads unintentionally appeared next to inappropriate content. What happens next? The digital version of guilt by association — your brand may now be associated with something it never should have been near. At best, your customer will ignore your message. At worst, you’ll have a crisis on your hands.

Consider what’s safe for your  brand

It’s more important than ever to ensure digital messages appear in suitable environments, not solely to avoid risk, but also to effectively reach the right consumers. While no advertiser wants their brand associated with content that doesn’t match their brand’s image or values, acceptable content will likely vary for each brand.

Today, advertisers are incorporating brand safety strategies into their media buying to avoid content commonly agreed as inappropriate, such as adult content, hate speech or illegal downloads. However, as each brand is unique, advertisers must understand what is suitable content for one brand, would be content to avoid for another.

Keyword priorities vary by industry

To gain deeper insight into differing requirements for brands, we explored the top blocked keywords requested by advertisers during 2018. Comparing advertiser data from automotive and entertainment industries, we found key differences in the content deemed as a significant risk to their brand advertising.

While there are some universal agreements around terrorism and gun violence being unsafe, both the auto and entertainment advertisers’ keyword block lists reveal industry specific brand suitability preferences. 

The auto industry naturally wants to avoid problematic vehicle-related content, with keywords such as ‘accident’ and ‘crash’ appearing high on the list. Despite not being words directly linked to the automotive industry, this reflects the need to also consider keywords that could potentially have a specific negative impact to your brand within the context of your vertical. The keyword ‘pollution’, again is high on the automotive block list and is a commonly used term. By using keyword blocking, auto advertisers can avoid serving ads next to content that would cause a negative brand association.

The entertainment industry on the other hand has taken extra steps to avoid anything related to adult content, blocking words related to pornography and sex. These terms are already captured within the adult content model in IAS’s brand safety solution, so adding keyword blocking can duplicate efforts and brands need to consider how they use both. Keywords should solely be used to further ensure brand suitability, such as avoiding an article on “artistic pornography” in a widely read publication.

Customize your own brand’s approach

Due to the ever-expanding nature of the Internet, there will always be content that does not align with a brand’s values. To protect brands as best as possible against this, it is imperative to set brand safety parameters and decide the type of content a brand deems suitable to appear alongside, compared to the type of content that will not be tolerated.

To verify the level of suitability of digital content, keyword blocking can be a rather blunt tool and can significantly impact reach for a campaign. Keyword blacklists, domain blacklists and whitelists can aid to customize requirements for brand specific nuances. For brand safety protection, brands can rely on IAS’s dynamic, page-level scoring and machine learning models informed by our data science team. Thanks to AI and machine learning, IAS’s brand safety solutions are able to continually improve their understanding of the digital landscape, and can automatically assess and determine the suitability of new pages. IAS also applies a human lens to continuously audit and enhance models in order to keep apace with the constantly evolving digital landscape. This combined approach ensures that brands reduce risk, protect their reputation, all while maximizing ad spend. 

To what extent does your brand safety strategy reflect industry-specific nuances? What can your brand learn from keyword blocking lists from other industries? Click here to learn more about how IAS can further protect your brand.