Taking Care of BS: It’s Time to Rethink Brand Safety

Taking Care of B.S.
It’s Time to Rethink Brand Safety


The advent of digital technology has transformed the advertising industry more in the past five years than the medium itself has changed in the previous fifty. But, along with the advantages of more precise targeting and measurement tools, comes one major issue: brand safety.



But there’s a bigger problem at hand.  Brand safety has become buzz-worthy jargon that means different things to different people.  Brand safety, as defined by some, is the practice of ensuring ads only appear adjacent to content that does no harm to an advertiser’s reputation. To another, the term could mean something quite different, such as ensuring an ad is targeted within relevant content and viewable. Simply solving for the issue of “brand safety” is not a solution when there’s no one agreed upon definition.


In order to build trust and solve for the issue plaguing our industry, we must change the brand safety conversation. It’s no longer about where; it’s about how. We must look beyond where ads are playing and address all of the issues of how – viewability, validation and domain transparency.  That’s why it’s time to talk about budget safety.



Viewability: It’s not a currency, it’s a necessity

For years the industry has relied on viewability as a currency to measure how much of an ad is actually seen. To the Media Rating Council (MRC) an ad 50% in-view for two seconds is all that’s needed. For GroupM, they expect for all 100% of an ad to be shown on-screen for any amount of time. But what if brands no longer had to wonder how much of their ad was viewed? Or for how long? What if brands were billed on the impressions that were 100% in view, and viewed from start to finish by a real person? Viewability should no longer be a currency – it should simply be the norm.


In order to achieve budget safety, brands and publishers alike must raise the bar on viewability, and agree viewability isn’t a currency to be traded on, it’s a necessity for budget safety.


The Essential Layer: Third-Party Verification

Brands want to be sure that someone saw their ad, ideally for more than two seconds. And, they deserve to know.  While publishers have become more sophisticated at quickly identifying and thwarting bots and measuring views, we should be playing by the ‘don’t just take our word for it’ rules. Third-party verification is no longer a ‘nice to have.’ It is an essential layer of budget security for both brands and agencies.


And, just like with any market, as demand increases, so does supply. Today there are dozens of third-party verification partners that publishers can employ as their extra layer of security and validation. This capability makes it even more essential for brands to ensure their partners that they are A.) taking an honest look at fraudulent traffic and B.) employing the right third-parties to address their concerns such as validating human views, combating malware and fighting internet-piracy.


The good news is that the industry is moving quickly in the right direction. There are third-party partners such as the Trustworthy Accountability Group (TAG), MOAT, and the MRC that can help to maintain budget safety in 2018.


It’s time to tackle the issue of domain transparency for once, and for all.

The only way that budget safety will ever be fully realized is if we tackle the industry’s issue of domain transparency for once, and for all.  In 2017, the IAB took a giant step forward to aid publishers in their quest to combat spoofing by bringing transparency to the supply-chain. The launch of Ads.txt, a simple solution that lets publishers communicate which supply-side platforms (SSPs), networks, and exchanges they work directly with is a first step.


Adoption is picking up speed as publishers and demand-side partners (DSPs) begin to aggressively verify the publishers they access. This cuts out unverified resellers and eliminates counterfeit inventory from being sold, which protects  the  brand’s reputation, as well as their budgets and the publisher’s prestige.


In 2018, we must continue to invest in these types of solutions to safeguard brands against purchasing counterfeit inventory and landing next to offensive content. That’s why budget safety is of the utmost importance.



It’s not just about the “what” and “where” – effective reach is important, too.

Budget safety doesn’t stop at where or for how long your ad is being viewed. Brands also want to know that they’re reaching their target audience, and making a lasting impression. The more targeted the message, the more effective it will be. This is not a new phenomenon. By leveraging first-party insights and collaborating directly with the publisher, marketers can build a creative bespoke to the environment.  It’s critical that advertisers prioritize spend on effective placements, not just efficient placements.


This year, 44% – or $237 billion – of all ad dollars spent globally will be in a digital/IP-connected environment. By 2020, the spend is projected to increase to $291 billion – the equivalent of half of all global advertising dollars.  Key takeaway: brands are spending more on advertising than ever before. As traditional media begins to look more like digital and digital more like traditional, brands and publishers alike must elevate and change the conversation around brand safety or we’ll never find a way to solve for the problem and it’s many definitions.


















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