Brand Safety: Protecting Your Brand in the Era of Fake News

Posted by Meara Johnson on May 10, 2018 4:29:46 PM

What is brand safety, and what are the costs of ignoring it? Imagine investing a large portion of your marketing budget into a campaign that was served alongside inappropriate, offensive, or simply misaligned content. Not only could a poorly placed ad be a waste of your investment, but it would tarnish the integrity of your brand. This is the reality that marketers and agencies alike are faced with daily in today’s digital landscape.

In recent years, many large corporations have felt the sting of ignoring brand safety, resulting in a dent to their bottom line and most importantly the loss of trust from consumers. Once a brand’s reputation is tarnished, they ultimately lose their most important asset; the trust of the consumer. With violence, fake news, and drug related content at the top of the list for unsafe brand content, marketers, publishers, and agencies are looking for solutions to avoid the possibility of ending up with ads placed alongside said content.

Earlier this year IAB Canada hosted a Business of Digital event centered on the industry’s hot topic, Brand Safety; highlighting best practices and measures that can be taken to create a “brand safe eco-system.” Brands, agencies and publishers from across the industry gathered to facilitate several informative panel events. Joanne Crump VP, Integrated Media of Active was invited to be a key thought leader on the panel regarding Strategies for Buying Safe Media. Joanne provided invaluable insight on these topics, focusing on what exactly the problems are, along with the many available solutions to help combat them.

What is Happening?

In an age of fake news, uncensored media platforms, and tense political environments, marketers are constantly challenged to figure out ways to protect their brands. In a survey conducted by IAB Canada Barometer Report: The State of Brand Safety in Canada, the investigation showed that most of the sample taken had experienced brand safety issues, and they consider it extremely serious. The most reported fall out due to ads being served alongside unsafe content is social backlash and negative press. The top three most common unsafe content categories were:

  • Bad News
  • Divisive Politics
  • Fake News

While there are plenty of tactics to avoid being placed alongside these categories, advertisers must first be aware that there is always a risk in place – no matter what tactics are used to protect brands. Joanne Crump provides a few techniques that have proved to be helpful to marketers and advertisers alike.

What Can Be Done?

When asked about possible solutions to navigate the brand safety crisis, Joanne says that there are a few solutions to protect a brand’s integrity in the age of fake news:

1) Communication

2) Blocking technology

3) Education & awareness

Communication along all channels of the ad serving process is vital to the success of a campaign, as well as to the protection of a brand. Our team at Active focuses on ensuring that pre-execution briefs are thoroughly completed. This extra step ensures that Blacklists are implemented, and that clients are not only able to specify what they don’t want to see – but also what type of content they do want their ads to appear against.

Third party verification tools are another resource that have proven to be effective. Almost 90% of those surveyed in the IAB Canada Barometer Report indicated that they are using technology as a solution to avoid brand safety issues. The report also found that preventative measures being used outweigh ‘post issue’ solutions. Preventative measures include solutions such as: blacklists, whitelists and third-party verification solutions – with third party verification solutions being ranked as most effective by 41% of respondents.

Joanne also commented on the use of Negative Keyword Targeting, stating that while this can be an extremely helpful tool; it is difficult for A.I to detect context. A word that may not typically be deemed offensive can very easily slip through the cracks and be used with a negative connotation.

Our digital team emphasizes on the education and awareness for clients, particularity when engaging in programmatic spaces - where audiences are being bought as opposed to specific web pages. Realizing that there is always a risk of appearing along unsafe or misaligned content, our digital team uses their expertise along with protection technology tools to ensure ads are placed in the safest spaces possible. Collaboration and communication between marketers and agencies are vital when executing successful campaigns.

Who is Responsible?

When asked who is to be held responsible for protecting brands, Joanne feels that it is up to agencies, marketers and publishers to all take equal parts responsibility through collaboration and communication. The onus is not on one division of the channel to hold all of the responsibility for the execution of a brand safe ad. It is vital that both marketers and agencies engage in joint conversation regarding the maintenance of the integrity of the brand. All members of the channel are urged to value quality over quantity when deciding on where to serve ads. Quality placements will ensure your target audience is reached, while your brand continues to be held in high esteem by consumers.

What’s Next?

Protecting your brand doesn’t have to be a daunting task, following the steps discussed here today can make a world of difference when it comes to a safe execution of an ad campaign. Proper communication across all channels is vital, and will ensure that any risk of your ads being served against damaging content is minimized. Connect with us on Twitter for more insight on other tactics on how to Achieve More with your media campaigns, or book a 30 minute lunch on us to find out how you can triple the value of your inventory with Active.

Topics: Media & Marketing, Agency Perspective, media buying, Digital Media, advertising, Brand Safety, Digital Marketing, IAB Canada