Brand Safety For Brand Advertisers – Why It Matters

Why Does Brand Safety Matter?

Brands want advertise against the right content and make sure that they are brand safe in the process.These rise of user generated content has created a conversation around “brand safety,” the assurance that a brand can show ads safely next to a huge variety of content that is made by all sorts of people about all sorts of things.

Why Did Brand Safety Become Important?

User Generated Content is exploding. On YouTube alone, 1.9 billion people log in monthly to use the platform. Content is uploaded by 50 million creators, including everything from funny cat videos to educational programs to full shows with professional producers and actors. This equates to tens of billions of advertising opportunities across hundreds of content categories. Just thinking about it can make a media planner’s heart quicken with anxiety.

What Is the Definition of Brand Safety?

The IAB defines brand safety as “keeping a brand’s reputation safe when they advertise online.” Generally, this refers to the practice of keeping ads from running next to inappropriate content. According to the IAB, brand safety also describes the practice of providing a safe environment for ad trading. Any company with content has a responsibility to deliver brand safety, keeping brands away from actual “unsafe” content. Content that is unsafe is almost universally agreed upon at a fundamental level. This includes content that incites violence, terrorism, racism and hate speech, sexually explicit and illegal content.

Where Does Brand Safety Apply

Brand safety matters on all content. In particular, brands are interested in brand safe advertising against user generated content. YouTube is an example of a platform with both technology and manual monitoring designed to ensure every element of the platform is truly safe for brands at a massive scale. This includes metadata and content monitoring, comments monitoring and analysis of creators and the patterns around how and when they upload their videos.  These platforms have a legal and ethical obligation to keep brands, and clearly, viewers, safe.

How Does Brand Safety Work?

Brand safety is a fundamental, built-in feature on most content platforms, including YouTube, other social media sites and large advertising exchanges. Brands can rest assured that these big companies have a vested interest in keeping their clients safe, and have stepped up efforts continually to match the pace of growth on their platforms. These large companies are constantly innovating, for example, using artificial intelligence to recognize patterns that indicate misuse of the platform. While new content is added every second, with it a minute chance that something slips through, the chances that a brand falls victim to these small anomalies in incredibly small. 

Brands automatically benefit from the brand safety work by the platforms when they advertise there, without having to pull any additional levers. Advertisers large and small from around the globe confidently show billions of ads every day with total safety.

From Brand Safety to Brand Suitability

Platforms rightfully focus on the eradication of dangerous and ubiquitous brand safety issues that can be managed at scale for all advertisers. The complexity comes in when brands actually want more than that, when they want content to be “suitable” to them specifically. That requires a much more granular focus on the individual creator content itself. Brands benefit most when they own brand suitability, and approach the content as a fundamental driver of their UGC media strategy.

The Trustworthy Accountability Group states “Brand Safety is a component of a larger effort to control ad placement that a few digital advertising Buyers and many Sellers are now starting to label as Brand Suitability.”  Brand suitability is the specific approach to content and context that matters to a particular brand, and only the brand knows what’s best for them. Common standards and other platform-level or industry level solutions simply don’t make any sense in this case because every brand needs something different. An energy drink company, an insurance company, a toy company – each of these brands requires different content and contextual guidelines.

This additional element of brand suitability requires work by the brands and their partners, as it is too custom and unique for a large platform to automate.  Brands will benefit if they expand their view of UGC platforms from a place to target audiences at scale that simply needs to be “safe.” Brands are best off standing adjacent to content that reflects their brand identity and is never damaging in any way to their brand.