Managing Brand Safety in 2023

As average daily internet consumption continues to increase in 2023, brands must proactively mitigate risks to their reputation across media buys. Social and programmatic ad buys will be especially challenging as the rise in content related to politics, war, and offensive or deceptive speech makes navigating brand-safe ad buys increasingly tricky.

This post is part of our 2023 Data Transformation Outlook series

More Digital Media Consumption Means More Risk

Daily digital media consumption is projected to reach 8 hours and 23 minutes per day in 2023. While this quantity of screen time gives advertisers many ways to reach consumers, it also increases the risk that advertisers will inadvertently appear with content that may damage their brand. This risk is exasperated by algorithmic bidding and placement optimization designed to maximize clicks, impressions, or conversions without necessarily factoring in considerations like brand safety

The Importance of Brand Safety

It’s no secret why brand safety is important to advertisers. Simply appearing alongside offensive content damages a brand’s reputation, and digital consumers are savvy enough to know that advertising provides revenue to those content providers in many cases. 

Appearing in the wrong place at the wrong time can lead to calls to boycott advertisers and consumer backlash, even if the appearance was unintentional. As recently as November 2022, the NAACP, ADL, and over 60 other civil groups called on advertisers to boycott Twitter due to doubts about its ability to moderate content and ensure brand safety. These calls serve as a warning and reminder to advertisers that appearing alongside offensive content will have consequences for brands.

Recommendations: How To Prioritize Brand Safety

Advertisers can leverage several strategies within their ad buys to mitigate the risk of brand damage to ensure brand safety.

Leverage Brand Safety Tooling on Programmatic, and Dynamically Optimized Ad Buys

In most cases, ad buyers can’t screen every impression for brand safety before a bid is placed. However, IAS and DoubleVerify help mitigate brand safety concerns by algorithmically screening ad buys, leveraging extensive block lists, and blocking content from appearing alongside offensive content after a bid.

Meta, YouTube, and TikTok also have built-in brand safety features that a brand can leverage to limit exposure to potentially damaging content. These are foundational tools in programmatic ad buying and should be used wherever possible.

Remove or Limit Unmoderated Content from the Media Plan

Unmoderated content includes posts on forums and channels that aren’t monitored and scrubbed for offensiveness.

Social media has shown the world that humans are fond of sharing their personal opinions. While this sharing can be harmless when related to recipes and movie genres, it can be dangerous for brands when it drifts to politics and world events. Ads can appear alongside highly opinionated or potentially damaging content, as users are free to post their thoughts and opinions. Therefore, advertisers should tread cautiously regarding unmoderated content and determine if there are other, safer places for brands to allocate dollars.

Consider Contextual Targeting Options

Incidents can still happen even with the best brand safety blocking tools in place. The sheer volume of new content on the internet daily means that no single tool is perfect at blocking all brand safety concerns. By leveraging contextual targeting, advertisers can select publishers they know that hold a low risk of brand-unsafe content. Contextual targeting serves a dual role in that it also helps to mitigate the impact of cookie depreciation by not relying on third-party data-built audiences for targeting.

Stay Current on News, Events, and Social Sentiment

Before 2019, there likely weren’t many block lists in the world that had “Covid” on them. Now there probably aren’t many without it. Keeping up with current events, potentially divisive issues, and consumer sentiment will be vital to mitigating brand safety risks in 2023.

While it may seem like a monumental task, part of an ad buyer or social media team’s role may need to include dedicated time for current events research to avoid brand safety mishaps proactively. Additionally, social listening tools to monitor brand sentiment can be an excellent way for advertisers to quickly understand and rectify any brand-safety issues before they become a significant problem.

Better Media Strategy & More Vigilance

Ultimately, mitigating brand safety risks in 2023 won’t be a one-size fits all approach across advertisers. It will require a blend of strategic media planning, tool selection, and current events research. Even with those factors in play, advertisers need to stay vigilant and closely monitor their social sentiment to quickly adjust media messaging and placement based on emerging world events and social changes.

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When it’s time to prioritize and manage your brand safety strategy, we can help. Please reach out below.

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