Achieving A Brand Safety Balance

Symbol of scales is made of stones on the boulder

With security and privacy a constant concern for advertisers, there is the temptation to invest heavily in ensuring brand safety. In this guest post, Nickolas Rekeda, CMO at MGID, explains how you can achieve this balance.

Brand safety remains a major concern for online advertisers in 2020. Ad misplacement incidents rose by 55 per cent across APAC last year, with Australia experiencing the highest level of brand safety issues at a rate of over 10 per cent.

Ensuring safe placements is vital for advertisers as damage caused by negative association with questionable content, fake news or hate speech can destroy the valuable customer relationships brands spend years building. When brand advertising is seen to be funding the creation and distribution of this type of content, consumers are unlikely to stick around to hear both sides of the story.

But while brand safety is undoubtedly a critical concern, focussing on this issue at the expense of other factors means advertisers may be neglecting the importance of the advertising experience as a whole. A recent report reveals overuse of brand safety tools such as keyword blocking wrappers can cause latency issues that harm the user experience and increase the chances of them abandoning the web page altogether. To deliver a positive and productive experience, advertisers need to balance their brand safety strategy with other factors such as suitability, privacy and quality, which can all be achieved through the adoption of native advertising.

From safety to suitability

Brand safety simply means avoiding unsuitable ad placements and offensive or inappropriate content. But the concept of unsafe content is different for each brand, and can be hard to define, as illustrated by the recent YouTube scandal, where ads for brands such as Samsung, L’Oreal, and even Greenpeace were found to be accompanying videos promoting climate misinformation.

Brand suitability is a far more proactive approach. It involves seeking ad placements alongside content that is aligned with the brand’s products, services or values and actually amplifies the ad’s message, reaching consumers when they are in the right mindset to engage. Native advertising naturally ensures both brand safety and brand suitability by making sure ad content is relevant to the page on which it appears, integrating seamlessly into the editorial environment and providing more value to the user than other forms of advertising. Brands are increasingly appreciating the benefits of native advertising, with a third of general display budgets now dedicated to this format.

Using advanced contextual targeting techniques that effectively analyse the content on a webpage to understand both its true meaning and the sentiment it evokes, native advertising can help brands actively find content that is relevant and applicable to their products or services.

Prioritising user privacy

Across the globe data privacy is a contentious topic. Consumers are becoming far more aware of the value of their data and regulations such as the EU General Data Protection Regulations and the California Consumer Privacy Act are coming into force. Although laws aren’t yet changing in Australia, the data privacy landscape looks set to evolve, with the ACCC’s Digital Platforms Inquiry specifically recommending strengthening protections in the Privacy Act, and also stating broader reform of the Australian privacy regime is necessary to ensure effective protection of personal information.

There are a variety of ways advertisers can improve their approach to data privacy ahead of these changes. They can be more transparent about how they use consumer information for targeting and personalisation, giving users a mechanism to opt out of data processing for these purposes and ensuring individual preferences are applied across the advertising ecosystem. They can also explore contextual ad targeting, which doesn’t rely on sensitive personal information such as purchase history, interests, or demographics in the same way behavioural targeting does. By selecting ad placements based on the content on the page, advertisers can reach consumers based on what they are viewing or reading at that moment, without the need to process sensitive data.

Ensuring overall ad quality

Respecting user privacy and placing ads in a suitable environment are both vital, but if the ads ultimately served are of poor quality, they won’t deliver a positive user experience. Advertisers need to ensure their ads adapt to the device and screen on which they are viewed, as well as the connection over which they are served to avoid issues of latency. Ads must be impactful without intruding on the user experience and should be clearly labelled as advertising to avoid misleading users.

Advertisers must also pay attention to issues such as ad clutter and frequency to ensure their message doesn’t get lost in the noise and that consumers aren’t continually bombarded with the same ad. Native advertising formats, that work seamlessly with on-page content and adapt to the screen or device on which they are viewed, while also delivering an impactful and engaging experience, are becoming a popular alternative to more intrusive forms of digital advertising.

Brand safety is, without doubt, an essential issue for advertisers to get a handle on and one that will continue to dominate the digital advertising agenda this year. But when forming their brand safety strategy, advertisers must remember it’s not the only factor impacting user experience. By embracing native advertising formats that ensure brand suitability, align with content and context rather than user profiles, and offer exceptional quality, advertisers will organically improve the overall user experience while naturally achieving a brand safety balance.


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