Brand Suitability Best Practices

Up to 90% of marketers think appearing next to unsuitable content impacts a brand’s reputation1. Building a brand suitability strategy is essential. But where do you start? 

Brand suitability takes a little more thought than brand safety. Brand Safety is about avoiding content that people universally agree should be blocked. Think sexually suggestive, profanity riddled, drug-related or violent content. 

On the other hand, brand suitability is all about the content which, while brand safe, may not be appropriate for a specific brand. Every brand has a unique image, customer base and even geo-location.  Those all factor into their brand suitability profile.

Think ASMR, pranks, or slime.  As we closed out 2020, ASMR counted amongst the most highly viewed channels and videos of the year. But this Internet oddity doesn’t work for every advertiser.

We put together 5 tips to help brands build out their brand suitability strategy.

Tip 1 – Determine the type of content that makes the most sense for your brand

Ask yourself – what audience are we looking to connect with? What types of content might they be watching, and don’t just focus on the obvious stuff. If you’re an auto brand, car buyers may well be watching auto content. However, when launching your new SUV spot, you’re likely considering content new parents might be watching.

Begin by picking 5 channels or videos that you want to surround. Use that as a starting point to build an inclusion list. Companies like Channel Factory use algorithms designed to take that selection of videos and scale them up. We turn them into contextually aligned, brand suitability optimized lookalike video and channel lists you can run ads against.

Tip 2 – What does your brand want to avoid specifically?  

Most brands stand for something, and have a sense of mission, culture, and values. Think about your brand values and what type of content may not make sense for you. That’ll become your brand suitability profile. Are you an auto brand that does not want to appear next to alcohol content, for example?  It’s best to echo your brand values in the content you choose to run ads on and stay away from any themes that may be harmful.

Tip 3 – Think about the types of content that you would consider suitable versus those you would not

Have a think about content which, while brand safe, might be brand unsuitable specifically for your brand. Examples may include ASMR, pranks, video games, music with expletives, primitive/hunting, slime etc.  

While a lot of this is harmless, entertaining content, always be thinking:– if my ad showed up before, during or after this video, what would that association say about my brand?

Tip 4 – Tailor

Brands in multiple markets will want to tailor their strategy by considering local language and cultural factors. Countries like Italy take a much more relaxed approach to nudity, for example, so running ads against slightly racier content might be fine for your brand’s strategy there, but when building your U.S. media plan, that content may be struck. It’s the beauty of culture that it’s so different everywhere – but that same diversity can endanger brands taking a one-size-fits-all approach to their brand suitability profile.

Tip 5 – Consider any applicable laws

Each country has its own laws and advertising standards and that can impact brand suitability. Make sure to be read up on national/regional laws and industry trade bodies who might put limits on the sorts of things you can claim. That might also include what audiences you can target. For example, in the US COPPA laws govern how brands can advertise to kids and LDA laws govern alcohol marketing. Be sure your inclusion list avoids any legal pitfalls around certain audiences and content.

Added Value Tip – Select the Right Partner

Not all media plans are created equal. YouTube contains a lot of video content: sorting, categorizing and evaluating each video and channel’s brand suitability requires sophisticated technology. It only takes one ad to cause headaches for your brand, so choose wisely.  

Channel Factory Grows Team

Channel Factory’s global growth has fueled the need to ensure the company has an executive team in place to deliver against strategic goals. Adding to our leadership team is a part of our growth strategy to ensure we are creating the right leadership structure to continue to drive significant growth in EMEA, APAC, and the Americas.

In the US, we are promoting and hiring key members to the sales, strategy and client solutions teams to deliver the right strategies to our key advertisers. Channel Factory’s global growth has prompted new hires and promotions necessary to bolster the executive team in order to deliver against strategic goals and forward-looking visions. The key moves are outlined below:

Jed Hartman has been promoted to the role of President, Americas. He will be overseeing sales, marketing, and client solutions to create an end to end team capable of delivering  comprehensive solutions for brands and agencies. Hartman joined Channel Factory in 2019 as Chief Commercial Officer, bringing experience leading commercial and revenue teams at Washington Post, Time Inc., and Dennis Publishing. He will now expand his remit to further drive growth in the Americas.  Jed’s cutting edge experience across advertising, publishing and corporate brand strategy drive awareness, adoption, and customer satisfaction with global brands and agencies for Channel Factory. Jed lives in Connecticut with his wife, daughter, and dogs Archie and Allie.

Mattias Spetz now expands his management role and is President of EMEA and APAC. Mattias is a veteran of digital video innovation, building mobile-first digital video advertising products at Smartclip before YouTube even launched its first ad formats. Drawing on experience across the digital, OTT and broadcast TV ecosystem, Mattias joined Channel Factory to nurture what had been missing in his previous roles: using awesome technology and a strong team to improve the overall health and values of the digital video advertising ecosystem. When he’s not raising digital tides, he’s spending time with wife, two kids and friends watching ice hockey.

Jeremy Haft

Jeremy Haft, Channel Factory’s Chief Revenue Officer, is responsible for accelerating the North American growth and revenue plans for Channel Factory and advancing the company’s sales approach, strategy, and new revenue streams. He joins Channel Factory in February 2021, moving from Amobee, where he served as SVP of Sales working across North American brands and agencies to consolidate cross channel media activation through programmatic solutions. Prior to Amobee, Haft helped build and scale businesses, transform sales strategies and amplify revenue growth for Viant, Visible Measures, Lotame, and MediaPost. Jeremy lives in New Jersey and in his spare time he enjoys traveling to tropical locations, cooking feasts with friends, and any new fitness trend he can get his hands on

Robin Zieme has been promoted to Chief Strategy Officer. The role will see Robin develop and execute strategic initiatives to drive further financial growth and client acquisition in line with the company’s overall vision. Robin is a true innovator, with roots across both the buy and sell side of the digital ad ecosystem. Robin’s deep experience includes running agency trading deals at Amobee and leading Adconion’s video efforts internationally and across North America. He now drives leading-edge advertising technology solutions, always creating new ideas and solving problems for Channel Factory. Robin helps build and create multinational opportunities and strike deals that help drive Channel Factory’s vision of creating a better digital video ecosystem for advertisers, users, and creators. Robin lives in the southern forests of Sweden with his wife and three children.

Jenny Chau

Jenny Chau has been promoted to Chief Solutions Officer. Jenny was previously SVP of Strategy and Client Operations. She joined Channel Factory in 2015. A digital technology industry veteran, Jenny oversees Channel Factory’s Client Solutions team. She is a media strategy guru that achieves client satisfaction across a wide variety of verticals and regions. Prior to joining Channel Factory, Jenny was busy refining her skills at major, award-winning agencies such as OMD, GroupM, and Horizon Media. Jenny lives in Los Angeles with her husband, two kids Mia and Teddy, as well as their dogs Shortie and Peanut. When she’s not ensuring Channel Factory’s clients are receiving superior outcomes, she’s cooking and doing arts & crafts with Teddy, building forts and playing peekaboo with Mia.

Eren Pamir

Eren Pamir has been promoted to Chief Financial Officer. Eren previously held the role of Vice President of Finance and Corporate Development, joining the team in 2019. Eren has over 15 years of experience working in the financial sector, beginning in mergers & acquisitions at Lazard Freres, and moving on to hedge funds and fintech startup Seek Capital before joining Channel Factory where he focuses on building out the company’s investments and financial strategy. Eren lives with his wife in Los Angeles, with their dog Bruno. Eren is an avid hiker, gourmet food and wine enthusiast, and also volunteers with the Anti-Defamation League.

CES 2021 – The Digital Advertising Takeaways

CES went digital this year, but it didn’t disappoint. Along with our 2021 predictions, here are some digital advertising trends to consider as the new year kicks into gear.

TV Declines & CTV Evolves

The decline of the TV upfront is permanent. 33% less spend was planned in 2020, a digital advertising trend that is set to continue.  Networks and broadcasters are looking to bring together multi-screen TV inventory under one roof. This will help them improve their offerings and cushion their bottom line. NBCU’s One Platform product is a good example.

Brand Suitability + Social Responsibility

“The inevitable future of digital advertising will enable brands to programmatically define what kind of programming they want to be associated with” according to Marc Pritchard, P&G’s Chief Brand Officer. 

2020 caused many brands to think about where their ads run and what they say. Pritchard said P&G plans to focus on transparency, brand suitability and brand safety. The goal? To “evaluate every single aspect of our media ecosystem and make sure that our ads are showing up in a place that is safe.”

Marketing Effectiveness

Slimmer budgets in 2020 and a slightly uncertain start to the year is causing marketers to seek out digital advertising channels with solid measurement. 

“Nearly every advertiser in the world is more deliberate about the choices that they make,” said Jeff Green, CEO of The Trade Desk. On platforms like YouTube, where brands often waste up to 30% of their spend on contextually misaligned ads, brands will be getting more deliberate about their digital marketing spend in 2021.

Retail Revolution

Curbside pick-up and home delivery have become a critical piece of companies’ logistics puzzles. The pandemic has normalized new retail realities, with brands such as Best Buy and Burger King revealing plans for stores which focus on digital fulfillment. They also plan to reserve physical shelf-space primarily for best-selling products for the in-person shopper.

Contactless but still Human

Brands definitely need to provide contactless options across all channels. However, once the lockdowns relax, marketers will need to account for human interaction to maintain customer relationships and loyalty. 

The key is striking the right balance. “Brands will need to find the balance between touchless while providing some human touch when it comes to servicing. And those that do this will emerge as the winners,” said Mastercard’s Cheryl Guerin, Worldwide EVP, North America Marketing and Communications.

Revenge Spending

Even though spending on indulgences has soared, people are saving up their money for when things return to normal. As a result, purchase intent is growing – and not just for obvious no-go areas such as travel.

“There’s pent-up demand that’s going to lead to increased spending across many categories, electronics, clothing, technology, luxury goods, cars and even home renovations to create more space. And over half of people in the survey are looking to buy something that’s just for them to treat themselves”, says Guerin again

The Digital Marketing Calendar

COVID dropped us into a bit of a twilight zone. Delayed seasonal celebrations and fewer holiday markers, such a retail window dressing, upended the traditional seasonal digital advertising calendar.

“The implication is don’t think in conventional timelines,” said Harris Poll CEO, John Gerzema. In response, marketers will need to be agile to adapt and respond to things as they are happening rather than relying on the usual way of planning.

The Self-Improvement Boom

Self care has shifted front and center for many. Whether gifting more often, up-skilling and learning, getting fit at home, this is a big opportunity for marketers.

On YouTube, TV screen watch time of videos related to well-being, including yoga, fitness, and meditation, has increased more than 180% from July 2019 to July 2020.

And the same is true of learning: watch time on TV screens of videos related to learning more than doubled between July 2019 and July 2020. Cooking tutorials were one of the most popular learning categories.

What IS Entertainment?

Social media and TikTok specifically are further blurring the line between traditional entertainment and the content appearing on social media platforms.

As TV viewership dips, and more people flock to social video channels, everything from snackable entertainment to appointment viewing will be increasingly driven by user-generated content.


Once an outlier, eSports is a force to be reckoned with and a lot of growth in the industry is expected this year. 

Up until now, eSports leagues have been light on their sponsorship and digital advertising strategies. That’s likely to change. Everything from custom player-activated ads to embedding marketers’ messages directly into the games via platforms like Bidstack will increase. YouTube’s will be giving viewers the ability to shop items featured in videos directly from the platform. That’s likely to encourage brands to look at their influencer marketing budget with renewed enthusiasm.


1,2: YouTube Internal Data, Global, July 2019–July 2020.

Top Ten Predictions for Digital Video Advertising in 2021

2020 was a year of change, including changes in how people consume content, prompting soul searching and updates from the biggest brands. Think about Coca-Cola pulling out of social media for a time, until they ultimately recalibrated and invested in a more conscious way after months of internal review of how to ensure their values and investment strategies matched.  As 2021 gets underway, we compiled the top 10 digital video advertising market trends to keep an eye on.

1. Cookies Continue to Crumble

A driving force behind the last 20 years of ad revenue growth, the cookie will continue to use its lustre as Google implements changes to Chrome, following other browsers like Mozilla and Safari, and eliminating cookies by 2022.  The voice of the consumer will drive brands to shift their focus to contextual, which uses content as a more effective proxy of consumer interest (eg. Peloton may choose to run ads against workouts or health and wellness channels).

2. Data Ethics

The infamous rise of conspiracy theories and fake news have raised awareness of how data and technology can be used to create a more inclusive, diverse, and truth seeking digital world. Platforms will be forced to take ever more clear cut positions on what types of content they allow on their platforms, as well as how their algorithms promote this often viral content (eg. Android & IOS banning Parlor).

3. Contextual Grows in Maturity

Aided by the cookie’s disappearance, contextual targeting will grow in both importance and in maturity. Contextual targeting helps brands target content specifically aligned with their message and ethos. 

Research by Channel Factory has shown that ads running on content that is aligned with the ad (like M&M with M&M unboxing videos) drives up to 93% better recall than audience targeting-only tactics

4. Brand Safety, Customized

Brand safety has emerged as a primary KPI in most brand’s media plans and the cost of oversight is clear. GroupM’s 2020 survey of 14,000 consumers found that 64% develop a negative view of a brand when its ads appear next to inappropriate content.

The next evolution of brand safety lies in its customization to the brand’s unique image, message, and markets.  Brands will look to providers to help navigate platforms with high volume and velocity through the lens of their specific brand image and values.

5. More Responsible Media Buying

“Brands are thinking about media investment in terms of their corporate social responsibility and are trying to reflect ethical, value-based decisions about what’s positive and good for society in their media buying” says Joshua Lowcock, Chief Digital & Innovation Officer at UM Worldwide. 

In a 2018 Conscious Consumer Spending index, on a scale of 1-10, most consumers ranked themselves 7 or 8 in terms of their social consciousness when shopping, and that number is only going to grow. 2020 prompted corporate reflection on systemic inequality across the societal spectrum, and brands are beginning to include both creative messaging as well as media investment to reflect their corporate values.

6. Focus on Performance Efficiency

A perfect storm of factors has put performance efficiency – price and ROI – front and center for brands: the economic contraction, pressure on businesses to digitize their retail capabilities in light of reduced offline shopping behaviors, and the growing number of lower funnel products appearing to cater to such models such as YouTube for Shopping.  

As contextual targeting and customized brand safety techniques improve, brands are beginning to see how as much as 30% of their impressions have historically run on content that’s either irrelevant or unsuitable. In 2021, brands will be looking to maximize  their effective reach and increase what many are coming to call their qCPM, or quality CPM, which is the actual cost to their business of running on content that aligned with their brand.

7. News is Back on the Menu

The incessant stream of bad news in 2020 caused many brands to scale back their media spending on the category. 

However, in a survey released by the Trustworthy Accountability Group in December, 40% of consumers said all news content should be appropriate for ads. IAB research released in October also found 84% of consumers feel advertising within the news increases or maintains brand trust.  While consumers are divided around advertising on certain stories – involving violence, death, policy, societal changes – in 2021, brands will be on the lookout for a more curated approach to the news as the medium continues to pull in users transfixed by the 24 hours news cycle. 

8. Audio-Driven Advertising 

Audio has never been hotter. Audio streaming increased 32% in 2020, with households upping their daily listening by an average of 54 minutes. Whether multi-tasking, jogging, or beginning to commute again, brands will be looking for ways to maximize audio-consumption as an advertising medium with its own creative best practices

Consumers spend more time on YouTube streaming music and podcasts than on any other digital platform. And YouTube just unveiled its new audio ad unit, and early tests show promise: Shutterfly drove above benchmark lifts of 14 percent lift in ad recall and 2 percent lift in favorability among their target audience.