Navigating brand safety in the world of user-generated content
What do you do when your brand's ad shows up next to questionable content? Contributor Justin Freid suggests a method for making things right.
Brand safety has never been a hotter topic than it is now. Brands are expected not only to understand who their advertisements are being shown to but also what content their ads may be running next to. (See the World Federation of Advertisers’ Global Media Charter announced today.)
In the eyes of the average consumer, placing an ad next to a piece of content means your brand is a sponsor of that content. Did your pre-roll ad run on a YouTube channel advocating a political candidate? Did your banner ad run next to an article about nose picking? Did your paid search ad come up connected to a keyword for something horrible? In all of these cases, the consumer assumes your ad placement was sanctioned by your brand.
So if your brand happens to appear next to something that an individual does not support, their perception of your brand may turn negative. Too often, ads are erroneously placed next to content at no fault of the advertisers or advertising agency, but because of issues with algorithms that fail to protect brands.
This is not the average consumer’s fault. They have no idea how ad targeting works. As seen in the recent Senate hearing with Facebook’s founder, Mark Zuckerberg, there is a varying level of education on how a business like Facebook can offer a service for “free.”
The martech industry has evolved to monitor brand safety
As brand safety has become a bigger concern for brands, many in the tech industry have taken advantage of the opportunity. Tools have become available that focus on monitoring your brand’s presence and its exposure alongside potentially non-compliant content.
Companies such as comScore, OpenSlate and BrandVerity have all developed offerings to help provide protections to brands. ComScore, specifically, has developed a toolset which allows advertisers to ensure their ads are being viewed, protected from predetermined content and from potential fraudulent views. OpenSlate uses their data to ensure your videos don’t appear next to non-compliant content on social networks, while BrandVerity has built a toolset that can monitor paid search ads and other brand compliance issues that come along with digital advertising.
Do brands really care about brand safety?
When asked, a brand marketer will tell you that keeping their brand safe is one of the most important concerns. In fact, the recent Integral Ad Science (IAS) survey showed that brand safety ranks among the top concerns within our industry.
But do our actions match up with what we are saying? The recent issues that have occurred with YouTube and Facebook have not slowed down our industry’s spending. A recent report from eMarketer shows exactly that.
While we say these issues concern us, the fact that not many advertisers have stopped advertising on Facebook and that Google has had another unbelievable quarter and beat experts’ expectations indicate that brands may not care as much as we think.
Both Google and Facebook have been pushing continuously for new ways to protect brands. As great partners to agencies and brands, that may be a key reason why dollars have not shifted away from their platforms. Their constant push to make their platforms better helps advertisers trust everything that could be done is being done.
So when there’s a targeting issue with one of your trusted partners, what steps do you take?
What to do if your ad is placed next to risky content
Before shutting down your advertising campaigns, collect information first so you can make an intelligent decision. The following outlines a potential process you can follow.
First, you must determine how much exposure your brand received. Here are a few questions to ask:
- What was the time frame when your ads ran next to the non-compliant content?
- How many impressions were served?
- How many clicks were registered?
- How much of your budget was used for these clicks/impressions?
- What technical issue caused your brand to run next to this content?
- Was it human error or an algorithm issue?
This information can help you determine the severity of the issue. Depending on your client or company’s threshold for these types of issues, serving 100 impressions may be met with a very different reaction than serving 100,000 impressions next to non-compliant content. Each client, and even each industry, has a different tolerance; some even have no-tolerance policies, so be sure to have a deep understanding of what that threshold is for your specific client(s).
From there, depending on the severity of the issue, you have a couple of actions to consider.
First, should you pause your campaigns? If the issue is ongoing, and there is no immediate fix, pausing your efforts is a logical step. The key here is communication with your client and the stakeholders. Depending on the specific partner, pausing a large campaign could directly affect your overall marketing mix.
Second, if possible, asking the partner to provide a “make-good” should completely be on the table. Whether it’s about letting you out of your contract, providing additional media exposure or issuing a refund for the served impressions, you should have a conversation about how the partner will provide your brand or client with reimbursement.
You also need to develop an understanding of the exposure of the campaign. Depending on how the compliance issue was found, there could be backlash from traditional media and on social media as well. Executing social listening, including the monitoring of news providers, for your brand name and the associated publishing partner can be a quick way to determine if this has become a PR issue.
Opinions expressed in this article are those of the guest author and not necessarily MarTech. Staff authors are listed here.