Is Advertising Witnessing the Great Consolidation?


In association with Zefr.

In this Q&A with ExchangeWire, Suzy Ley, EMEA marketing lead at Zefr, discusses how brand suitability strategies need to align in the post-cookie ecosystem, and how techniques should evolve to protect video content for brands and consumers.

How is the upcoming shift towards privacy-first advertising affecting marketing spend and confidence? Are we seeing a shift towards scaled publishers and the walled gardens, or is confidence in open web advertising holding steadfast?

Despite privacy-first advertising becoming more prevalent, and the ongoing coronavirus pandemic, video marketing budgets are still increasing. In fact, during Q3 2021, video budgets increased the most within main media advertising, according to the latest IPA Bellwether report. And the majority of that investment is being concentrated where the audiences are, which are predominantly scaled video platforms.

However, with more brands concentrating advertising spend within walled gardens, open web-led brand safety and suitability approaches don’t work for the nuances of sight, sound, and motion. Assessing third-party's technical prowess in video allows brands to focus on creating impactful campaigns, without worrying about whether they will feature alongside content that doesn’t match their specific preferences.

How should the industry approach the shift away from legacy brand suitability strategies, such as the use of crude blocklists, towards more modern and nuanced approaches? What technology solutions are available to help facilitate this?

Suzy Ley

Suzy Ley, EMEA marketing lead, Zefr

Legacy brand suitability strategies limit marketers. While their primary function is to prevent the placement of ads in inappropriate settings, their one-size-fits-all approach often ends up having the opposite effect. Blocklists, and even basic AI solutions, do not solve the needs of individual brands – an ad placement appropriate to one brand may be completely inappropriate for another. Without a video-specific solution, companies may find their ads in contexts that damage not just the campaign but their long-term credibility. Ultimately, consumers will hold brands responsible for poor ad placements resulting in loss of trust.

But before charging headlong into a new strategy, brands and advertisers need to take a step back and interrogate what brand safety and suitability really means to their company. For example, examining the potential outcomes of setting different risk thresholds and aligning with specific suitability definitions to gauge impression-level clarity on each video.

Core brand values that have clearly been agreed on can then be combined with an advanced machine learning-based AI solution, supported by human cognition, creating a suitability strategy that picks up on the nuances that legacy open web strategies such as blocklists cannot.

What key differences should marketers consider when implementing brand safety and suitability solutions on static textual content, compared with dynamic content such as video and audio? How do solutions effectively manage this more complex content both within and outside of the walled gardens?

Though obvious, understanding that video is more complex than textual content is vitally important. The combination of rapidly moving images, speech, sound, and text can confuse AI technology and completely evade detection by blocklists. Each in isolation – from computer vision to audio transcripts – is insufficient without a holistic view of a video within the larger brand strategy.

For instance, brands may be looking to avoid their ads being placed next to racially insensitive content, but be actively looking to position themselves next to videos that positively discuss socially progressive movements. A one-size-fits-all AI solution would simply block all content relating to race or discussions thereof. This could not only lose a brand a potential audience but also go against their brand values.

On the flip side, others may want to avoid all content of this nature, but their suitability solution has deemed it safe to advertise adjacent to it anyway – with potentially inappropriate videos slipping through their safeguards. Video content eludes easy safety categorisation, and legacy open web solutions are simply unable to keep up.

How have new industry standards, such as the GARM Brand Safety Floor & Suitability Framework, bolstered the creation of a responsible media ecosystem? What are the key next steps, and what are the opportunities for cross-industry collaboration here?

Adhering to a shared set of industry standards solves many video ad safety issues, and so the importance of the Global Alliance for Responsible Media’s (GARM) framework cannot be overstated. As well as creating a structure that all brands and advertisers can adopt, it has also constructed a shared language that the industry can use to talk about these issues.

Recent research we have carried out revealed that the lack of consistency among brand suitability terminology was the main challenge marketers experienced with their current brand suitability strategy for video. The lack of a common framework and benchmark leads to confusion and reduces confidence in talking to technology partners about brand safety and suitability.

Brands need to take it upon themselves to stay ahead of brand safety issues instead of fighting fires when they spring up, and aligning themselves with cross-industry initiatives such as GARM is a great way to stay in the loop, foster accountability, and set minimum requirements.

Despite the focus on individual responsibility, collaboration across the industry will be incredibly important if the twin challenges of a competitive market and the ineffectiveness of legacy open-web solutions are to be overcome. Creating a common framework and benchmark to work from will help to build trust in brands, and ultimately, help to reduce misalignment and wasted inventory.