Brands are – rightly so – more aware of where their ads appear and the potential brand safety issues and risks associated with programmatic advertising. Brands are asking smarter and more specific questions of their agency; likewise, agencies of their vendors.
However, the news broke on Sleeping Giant’s Twitter account this week that some very prominent Australian brands were flagged that their ads were appearing on the website Breitbart. Needless to say, the brand safety issue is real and can backfire even if you make careful decisions.
As Keith Weed, Unilever’s CMO, said in Cannes this year: “I think some marketers woke up and realised they weren’t on top of buying as best as they thought… I think if people go away and say, ‘I want 100% brand safety’, they’re going to have a long journey back.”
It was good to see that many of the brands have responded quite promptly after this incident and added the Breitbart website to their blacklist. But is it enough? What happens when new "Breitbart" websites appear? Are we ready to protect our brands and its reputation built over years of hard work? Here’s our thoughts on best practices for brand safety:
- Understand your brand’s safety needs - every brand has a different tolerance level on what is brand-safe for their brand. Have guidelines in place so this can be conveyed across your company's stakeholders and also your agencies.
- Blacklist - ensure at a minimum your campaigns run on a global blacklist and any known websites such as Breitbart are added in.
- Contextual brand safety at a page-level across all programmatic strategies. In the article, one of the brands pointed out that their ads appeared on Breitbart as a result of behavioural targeting. Brands should consider applying page-level brand safety across all programmatic strategies so that just because a person has been to your website, it doesn't mean you want to re-target them on Breitbart.
- Custom brand safety - From time to time brands themselves may be in the spotlight, be it emission scandals, disgruntled customers, management being overpaid, government investigations etc., ensure you have a custom keyword blacklist avoidance strategy in place to help you avoid unfortunate alignment of ads next to negative articles associated with your brand.
In the age of programmatic advertising, we are focused on chasing our target audience as their browse the web, sometimes we forget that even with the right audience we need to reach them at the right moment. To capture that perfect moment, brands need to ensure their ads are not placed next to content that undermines their brand’s values or their customers.
Luckily, there are ways to mitigate risks that accompany programmatic advertising. By working closely with media buying agencies and ensuring the right programmatic strategies are in place, brands can get maximum value from digital advertising and at the same time reduce the possibility of damaging exposure.
By Grapeshot VP Australia and New Zealand June Cheung