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Maggie Cassidy
May 18, 2017

Why You Need to Prioritize Brand Safety

brandsafety-WordPress.pngIf you’ve been staying up-to-date with ad tech news, you’ve probably heard the term brand safety thrashed about. The term made headlines when big name brands like Verizon, AT&T and Johnson & Johnson pulled advertisements from YouTube in March after an increasing international controversy surrounding extremist content on YouTube.

But what exactly is brand safety?

It refers to methods used to ensure a brand’s ad won’t be displayed in a situation that could damage the brand’s reputation. There are a couple of ways a brand’s safety can be violated.

  1. A brand’s ad could appear adjacent to objectionable content like hate sites and adult content sites.
  2. A brand’s ad could appear within specific content that is not necessarily good for the brand.

Say a chocolate company wants to advertise their latest product launch, but their ad appears on a popular diet website that says chocolate is bad for you. That’s an example of brand safety being offended. That brand would be better served if their ad was featured almost on any other site.

Seems like a pretty important topic, right? With the world’s current climate that includes fake news, extremist content and less than savory content, protecting a brand’s safety should be a marketer’s main priority. Brand safety has only been made more difficult with how social media makes it easy for people to spot ads where they shouldn’t be.

There’s even a social media activist group called the Sleeping Giants that encourages brands from featuring their ads on specific sites, mainly ultra-conservative sites. With brands being watched constantly, especially in a tumultuous climate, it’s important that their brand safety is protected.


The current chaos that’s surrounding brand safety seems like a giant game of blame-casting and finger pointing with nothing getting done to fix the problem. And while it may seem like an insurmountable task to protect a brand’s safety completely, there are a few tips marketers can follow in order to ensure their brand’s safety:

  • Take an active stance! Don’t just assume that the worries behind brand safety will simply blow over. The more informed you are, the better.
  • Remember ad fraud? Bots, ad stacking and ghost sites can compromise your brand’s safety too. Make sure you’re vigilant with monitoring and blocking ad fraud at all costs.
  • Don’t forget about data. Brands depend on third-party data providers to give targeting lists for ad campaigns that can contain a person’s socioeconomic status, age, type of car they drive, even the shampoo they use. Also, make sure you understand how that third-party data is aggregated to maintain complete transparency.
  • Maintain your contextual targeting strategy and look for ways to use contextual targeting to evade situations where your brand’s ad is in a negative placement (like the chocolate company example above).

The internet is an entity that cannot be controlled entirely. Content of all kinds, including controversial and undesirable, will make its way on there no matter what. And if you’re a brand engaging with digital advertising, then there’s a chance your ads will appear next to content that doesn’t necessarily align with your values. While there is no foolproof solution to keeping a brand safe in the digital advertising sphere, brands can remain active in the fight and continue to follow tips and guidelines.

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