Why Brand Safety Shouldn't Take a Backseat to Revenue Safety

While brand safety is fundamentally important for any brand or publisher, the industry challenges they focus on are those that could have a direct and quantifiable impact on the bottom line. Writing exclusively for ExchangeWire, Nick Welch (pictured below), business development director UK, ADmantX explains how a breach of brand safety can impact revenues and how brands and publishers can look to maintain it.

Ask any marketer or publisher what they see as the biggest issues facing the digital advertising industry and two of the answers you are most likely to receive will be ad blocking and fraud.

The key driver for this is not — as you might expect — increased media attention and, perhaps, scaremongering around these issues; the real concern stems from the clear line that can be drawn between them and lost revenues. Indeed, there are some very compelling stats: ad blocking is expected to cost digital publishers USD$27bn (£20.8bn) by 2020, while digital ad fraud is due to cost brands USD$7.2bn (£5.5bn) this year alone.

As a result, the direct impact of ad blocking and fraud on profitability has seen the topics rise to dominate the industry agenda — and they are even being used as trading metrics.

Yet, in concentrating heavily on just two aspects of digital advertising stability, the industry is failing to see the bigger picture and other key areas are taking a backseat: specifically the subject of maintaining full brand safety. While it may not have the same immediate financial consequences, brand safety can be equally as damaging to a brand if it is not adequately addressed.

So, why shouldn’t marketers wait for a direct hit on revenue for brand safety to become a mainstream issue, and on what areas should they be focusing? 

Reputation is fragile

At a time when consumers have seemingly limitless choice of providers and products, and switching between companies is simple, the relationship between a brand and its customers is fragile and easily broken, which makes even the slightest dent to its reputation a risk.

A relatively small breach in brand safety — such as an inappropriate placement that goes viral — can be all it takes to destroy consumer trust in a brand. And when we consider that two-thirds of consumers refuse to buy from brands they do not trust, the effects of a poorly positioned ad on sales and revenue can be severe.

Earlier this year, for example, Google was swift to act when its AdSense platform was found to be serving digital ads from brands such as Citi, IBM, and Microsoft on a Jihadi propaganda website. Despite immediately cancelling the account and declaring its commitment to market quality, the incident placed the company under an uncomfortable spotlight. 

Context is key

Nick Welch

Nick Welch, Business Development Director UK, ADmantX

For the brands that do employ brand safety practises, precautions are often limited to basic methods, such as keyword filters. The problem with such approaches, however, is that they cannot take the context of content into account with any degree of accuracy.

Words can have multiple meanings, so even where the keyword definition is correct, a word can be used within content that expresses negative sentiment or controversial views — both of which can potentially be harmful to brands if their ads are associated with it. This is known as a ‘false-positive’; the keyword is correct – but it’s out of context when considering the content of the page and the intention of the segment. Keyword engines try to fix this problem by adding yet more words, but this still does not solve the fundamental issue whereby basic filters fail to ‘comprehend’ the nuanced meanings of words in relation to contexts.

To ensure complete brand protection, marketers require more than the basics; they need to utilise the latest innovative technologies — such as semantic analysis and Natural Language Processing. Designed to accurately determine the meaning and sentiment of online content at page level, such tools enable marketers to analyse individual web pages in detail, ensuring content is the right fit for both their brand and campaign message. This is achieved by analysing the full grammar of the page, including the relationships verbs have with preceding nouns in order to accurately comprehend and determine the precise nature of the context. Earlier this year, the leading Travel Advertiser TUI themselves recognised the damage caused by inaccurate contextual blocking, citing they would rather not advertise at all than have just one bad placement. 

Real time is essential

A good reputation is a precious asset; it takes a long time to build, but only a short time to demolish. What does this have to do with brand safety? It shows the importance of speed and the current deficiency of post-campaign analysis in safeguarding brand reputation.

Evaluating the performance of campaigns once they are complete is like shutting the gate after the horse has bolted — the damage is already done. To keep brands secure, marketers must place themselves ahead of the charge by conducting real-time analysis of possible placements. In doing so, they can instantly establish if a particular placement is safe and appropriate for a brand’s specific values, and use this insight to make an informed decision about whether to serve the ad or not.

The impact of a brand safety breach can be fast, widespread, and long lasting. So, instead of waiting for a direct hit on revenue to see just how damaging it can be, it’s worth marketers’ while to bring brand safety into the driving seat alongside ad blocking and fraud, before it’s too late for their campaign, and their brand.