Brand safety and suitability

The new year is always a good chance to remember, analyze, observe, and make plans. The ad tech industry has seen many transformations, especially over the last years, and it keeps evolving. Starting a new ad tech year, we’re going through a review of the trends, formats, and core tendencies that will shape programmatic in 2020. Here we go.

Current events have pushed brand safety and suitability to the forefront of the conversation. Digital ad industry standards-setters IAS and IAB have included brand safety in their events agendas to bring its challenges to the broader public. And that’s for a reason: brands need protection from association with unsafe, illegal, and inappropriate content.

Some stats illustrating the current state of brand safety:  eMarketer predicts that global ad spend will reach almost $360 billion this year; a recent survey by CMO Council shows that about the half of consumers would abandon brands if their ads appeared next to offensive content or fake news.

With that said, marketers will need to be more adept than ever in how they invest their programmatic ad dollars in 2020.

That leads the industry to consider the shift from “brand safety” towards “brand suitability”. Let’s take a look at what’s happening and what concrete recommendations how brands can embrace it in 2020.

Shifting from brand safety towards brand suitability

Brand safety means different things to different brands, but as more inventory goes programmatic, a more nuanced, custom approach is necessary. Still, we won’t go far from brand safety, as it’s vital, considering the types of content on particular sites that particular advertisers will find truly objectionable. 

Brand suitability in turn, brings to the table risk-free contextuality and precise relevance up to specific brand verticals. Since nothing exists in isolation, perception of everything is influenced by the context in which we’re taking it in. And that’s exactly what brand suitability copes with, ensuring brands would find the right content to fit their values and accompany their story.

Context and content is the marriage that everybody has to work with — Pranav Yadav, CEO at Neuro-Insight US

How can advertisers benefit from embracing brand suitability? Apparently, they get access to more premium inventory that better aligns with their brand, and grants them more control of their ad spend. In turn, publishers, SSPs, and other sell-side pals will benefit from an increase in scale and a more complete match of their high-value inventory to advertisers.

To make that happen, it’s essential that technology partners would excel in automating the process of investigating the environment to figure out which content is unsafe and inappropriate for particular brands and flag it. Their main task is to help brands build consumer trust.

Tactics to target brand-safe inventory and stay in context

So, what exactly should brands do to get more control over where their ads appear and make sure they don’t lose their consumers due to unsafe digital environment and content along with their ad messages?

Here are several tactics to start with, as shared by IAS at Digital Trust Forum earlier this year.

Base protection 

These are pretty much basic tactics, focused on brand protection, or ‘traditional’ brand safety as we know it:

• Standard content categories
• Site exclusion lists

Risk calibration

The next layer considers identifying customizable risk thresholds in which advertisers set the terms of suitable content appropriate and safe to advertise against it:

• Customizable risk thresholds


As a logical next step, tactics above bring advertisers to brand suitability or even brand building. With the support of technology partners and media owners, advertisers want the opportunity to spot the relevant content by getting contextual intelligence and customization opportunities:

• Contextual intelligence
• Custom content categories
• Positive and negative targeting

The future of brand suitability 

Looking ahead to 2020 and beyond, advertisers can take a proactive approach to brand safety by leveraging contextual intelligence partners to strike a balance between appropriateness and reach and keep their reputation safe across evolving programmatic world.

Yet, there is still much more collaboration, and sharing of thought leadership that needs to be done, as well as brand safety standards, should be agreed upon by the industry as a whole. Once the industry is aligned, the foundation will be strong enough to advance together towards brand suitability by setting the proper risk tolerances to align their messaging with their desired audience and outcome.

Looking for a programmatic partner providing brand-safe environment for media buying? Drop us a line to give a try with Markpoint DSP.

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