Ad Suitability: Navigating The New Digital Landscape

March 1, 2024 By

Picture this… You’re following an online recipe on how to make southern chili. But as you scroll down, you see a large ad for canned dog food. Gross. Even if you had a dog, the distasteful ad may lead you to click off-page. This is why ad suitability is so important.

If your ads aren’t in a suitable place, targeted to a suitable audience, you can lose the chance to make sales. And what’s worse? It’s almost impossible to manage this manually. Manually monitoring and adjusting ad placements is labor-intensive and resource-heavy. Luckily, we have some solutions to share with you. Let’s explore how to solve the complexities of ad suitability with innovative tools and strategies.

What is ad suitability?

Ad suitability is about placing your ads where they fit perfectly to build trust by association and reach the right audience. Think of it like finding the ideal habitat for a plant. It’s not just about avoiding pest and disease-ridden environments. Plants also need species-specific surroundings that contribute positively to their growth — think healthy soil and sunlight. Ad suitability shares the same principle. Placing your ads in ‌the right context helps them thrive.

Ad suitability breaks down into three key components:

1. Context

Think about the environment in which your ads appear. It’s not just about the content itself. It’s also about the tone and atmosphere. For instance, an ad for sportswear would fit well in a fitness-focused context — but it might not feel right next to tech news.

2. Content

Consider what the ad is directly associated with. It’s not just about having safe content. The content needs to align with the ad’s message. For example, an ad for eco-friendly products placed next to a sustainability article resonates well. It also reinforces the ad’s relevance and impact.

3. Audience

Look at who’ll find your ad most appealing and relevant. What audience are you trying to target? Consider what content these customers consume and where they go to find it. For example, people reading a dairy-free blog probably aren’t looking to buy raw milk. These ads would do far better on a farm-to-table or homesteading lifestyle blog.

Ad suitability vs. brand suitability vs. brand safety

It’s easy to get confused between ad suitability, brand suitability, and brand safety.

But, they all serve different purposes.

Here’s a quick recap of all three:

  • Brand safety: Strategies to avoid brand associations with objectively harmful content, such as hate speech and misinformation.
  • Brand suitability: Strategies to associate your brand with content that aligns with your overall brand values.
  • Ad suitability: Ad placement strategies to make sure your ads appear next to contextually relevant content that targets your ideal customer.

3 examples of ad suitability

Now that we’re clear on the basics, let’s take a look at a few concrete examples of aligned ad suitability in the real world. The following examples will help you get a concrete grasp of what ad suitability looks like and how it impacts your brand.

Garden furniture ads on environmental blog

Here’s a well-placed ad for outdoor garden rooms.

treehugger ad

Since this sustainability magazine includes lots of gardening content, readers are likely interested in improving their gardens. A garden room, in this sense, aligns with the audience’s interests and needs.

Cat toys on pet blog

Check out the following cat toy ad on a pet lover’s blog.

ad on pet blog lady

While this blog has articles about all kinds of pets, a good chunk of these are about cats. This means many readers are likely to be cat owners, who’d be interested in cat toys.

Machinery ad on handyman blog

This ad for woodworking tools is especially well-placed.

ultimate handyman ad

The ad appears on a blog with a relevant readership and is next to an article about power tools. Readers can learn which power tools they need from the article, and quickly click on the ad to buy them.

A bad example of ad suitability: irrelevant ad placement

Here’s a poorly-placed ad example. The following image showcases an environmental blog with ads for marketing software.

ad for green citizen and earth911

The content isn’t harmful to the brand’s image — but it’s completely irrelevant. Readers heading to this article aren’t in the frame of mind to buy marketing software.

Why ad suitability matters

Ad suitability is a strategic approach that can make or break a brand’s relationship with its audience. Let’s dig into why it’s essential…

Building trust with consumers

Customers want relevant ads, but they don’t want to feel like brands are prying into their private lives. Over three-quarters of customers say they’re more comfortable with ads that are relevant to the content they’re looking at, than those based on their browsing history. Contextual ads offer suitable products without tracking customer data. This helps build trust.

Plus, brands gain credibility when their ads align with content that resonates with their audience. Customers tend to have a better impression of brands that their chosen content creators endorse. When ads align with the content someone’s consuming, they feel the brand understands their needs and interests.

Look at the ads on Cointelegraph, for example.

coingraph ad

As a trusted source for crypto news, Cointelegraph is the ideal place for a crypto wallet and exchange to advertise. First off, the ads reach the right target audience — crypto investors. They also capitalize on Cointelegraph’s authority and credibility.

Protecting brand reputation

Ads appearing alongside unsuitable content can tarnish your brand’s image. It gives the impression you endorse that content even if it’s inappropriate or irrelevant to your audience. When your ads align with relevant content, it enhances your brand’s reputation. It shows that you support the same values that your audience believes in. That’s why customers are more likely to buy from brands whose ads are contextual.

Legal and ethical considerations

There can be real legal and ethical issues that arise if your ads show up next to content that’s inappropriate for your brand. For example, imagine an ad for a diet product next to an article that disproves this method. The ad comes off as deceptive, which could have legal ramifications. Alternatively, imagine alcohol ads appearing next to articles about children’s activities. These ads would be highly unethical. Ad suitability strategies safeguard against these risks.

Allows you to optimize ad spending

Ad budgets go further when you target the right audience. You’ll see better engagement and higher return on investment (ROI). If your ads are irrelevant or misaligned, they fall flat. They don’t reach audiences that resonate with your message. Instead, you waste resources and miss opportunities. Ad suitability focuses on placing ads in the ideal spots that will most resonate with your audience. And the proof is in the pudding.

Contextually-targeted CPC ads cost half as much as cookie-based ads. But the problem is that hard-and-fast brand safety measures, like blacklists, can work against you. They cut off complete content categories as they can’t understand the nuance of the content’s context. As The Drum’s VP, Kevin Wong, puts it …

A poorly placed ad can leave consumers with a long-lasting bad memory of a brand. But, marketers using rigid brand safety filters also risk missing out on an exponentially growing market of digital consumers. That’s why considering a campaign’s brand suitability, rather than just its safety, should be prioritized.

In other words, ad suitability looks at contextual nuance so you can jump on new and impactful advertising opportunities. By understanding the exact content that aligns with your brand’s message, you can pinpoint better opportunities to convert. As Unilever’s SVP of Global Media, Luis Di Como, explains …

“When we think about brand suitability, the better the definitions that we have for content that’s categorized by the platforms, the better choices we have for where we run our ads.”

Let’s look at an example: a nut butter brand advertises on a healthy-living blog. It’s not just relevant to the website. The ad also appears next to a recipe for peanut butter energy bars.

nut butter ad

It’s relevant to the website and the content of the article. It’s also a relevant call to action. It says, “Hey if you’re making this recipe, buy this product. It’s perfect for you.”

Impact on user experience

Unsuitable ad placements create jarring experiences for users. These negative experiences can directly impact how they see your brand. Tailoring ad placements to suit the content environment, on the other hand, enhances the user experience. This has a big impact on a customer’s overall brand perception.

Challenges in ad suitability

Changing online behaviors create unique ad suitability challenges. But with the right tools, you can manage these obstacles effectively. Let’s look at this a bit further …

The dynamic nature of online content

Web content is dynamic and constantly changing. It’s a Herculean task to make sure ad placements remain appropriate over time. The fluidity of the digital landscape can lead to ads suddenly appearing in unsuitable contexts. You may not have changed your strategy. Instead, new trends alter the way ad platforms interpret your ad parameters. This can‌ harm your brand’s image without you even noticing. This is where Seekr can significantly help brands. Seekr addresses this by evaluating over 30,000+ websites at the URL level. This granular-level assessment makes sure ‌that content is consistently appropriate for your advertising. Even as the online world shifts.

Balancing precision and scale

Most advertisers walk the same tightrope. How do you scale advertising while still maintaining ad suitability? How do you stay on top of all of the places your ads might show up? Because it’s tough to manually check the vast array of potential ad placements, advertisers shun certain mediums altogether. As Helen Lin, chief digital officer at Publicis Media explains …

While news consumption is surging, news avoidance by advertisers is a growing issue as brands can be weary of appearing alongside “hard news” they fear isn’t brand-suitable.

Take podcasts, for example. Not only do brands risk appearing on inappropriate shows, podcast discussions are so fluid and diverse that advertisers risk appearing at the wrong moment in the conversation. Since brands find it tough to track and categorize audio content, many avoid podcasts altogether.

Seekr provides a solution that helps brands scale ad campaigns across multiple channels. Not only does Seekr Align™ make it easier to categorize podcast content, but the Civility Score™ also helps you pinpoint appropriate podcasts at the episode level. Driven by AI, Seekr powers precision in ad placement so you can maintain the balance between reach and relevance.

Strategies for ensuring ad suitability

Navigating ad suitability is complex. But using strategic approaches and advanced tools can help you align ‌your advertising with the right content. Implement the following tactics to promote ad suitability:

Leverage AI

Artificial Intelligence (AI) has revolutionized content analysis. AI makes it possible to sift through vast amounts of data. This helps brands align ads with content that meets their specific criteria for suitability. No more spending hours listening to podcasts or days reading news articles. You can find content that meets your brand’s message quickly and accurately. For instance, tools like Seekr can deeply analyze content at scale to assess its suitability. Harnessing the power of AI, Seekr analyzes millions of content pieces for political leanings, bias, and soon, adherence to GARM safety standards. This AI-driven approach allows for a nuanced analysis that goes beyond surface-level metrics. It makes sure that ads are placed in environments that truly resonate with a brand’s ethos.

Human oversight and moderation

Traditionally, brands use blacklists (blocklists) and whitelists to try and manage brand suitability. These can certainly be useful, but they have some significant limitations. First, human oversight remains vital. Evolving word usage and topic trends can skew ad placements. You’ll need to assign somebody to oversee and manage these lists manually. For example, imagine you run a social media marketing agency. You show companies how to go “viral” online. The word “viral” is included in your whitelist. This helps you advertise alongside content about how to “go viral” on the internet.

Now, let’s say another COVID pandemic hits. The term “viral” is popularized in a different sense. Now your ads appear next to off-brand news about viral diseases. But the problem isn’t just the need for lots of human oversight. A list, no matter how comprehensive, can sometimes be too rigid or overly inclusive. This can lead you to miss key advertising opportunities. As Tracy De Groose, CEO of UK Newsworks, points out …

You might think that the longer the list, which can feature up to thousands of words, the greater the rigor on it. But that’s not the reality. Innocent phrases are getting impacted by a black-and-white approach to blocklists. Therefore, safe content is being redefined as not safe.

Take this scenario as an example: to avoid appearing next to adult content, a children’s book publisher includes the word “fantasy” in its blocklist. However, this means it’s missing out on key advertising opportunities on (appropriate) children’s fantasy gaming websites and online content. These conventional ad suitability measures do automate suitability processes to a degree. But they lack the nuanced approach that balances automation with contextual understanding.

Collaboration between advertisers and platforms

Collaboration is key to achieving ad suitability. Brands and platforms need to work together to create environments where ads aren’t just safe, but also contextually relevant. This way, both parties understand the nuances of content and audience. This leads to more effective ad placements that benefit the customer, brand, and platform. Where possible, actively engage in dialogue and share insights with your ad platforms. Sharing information about your target audience and content preferences leads to tailored ad environments. Done right, these relationships foster innovation in ad technology. This can lead to better tools and strategies for ad suitability in the wider domain.

Ad-suitable campaigns powered by AI

Ad suitability is essential. It’s the only way to resonate with your audience and uphold your reputation in a shifting digital landscape. Success requires a sophisticated approach. Through contextual understanding, you can pinpoint the exact places where your ads will thrive. You’ll reach the right customers and you’ll rub shoulders with the right content creators. But, it’s almost impossible to do this at scale if you’re doing it manually. Let Seekr’s powerful machine-learning algorithms do it for you. Offering comprehensive AI-powered content ranking, Seekr helps you find the best content with the right tone and context. This springboards your reputation while you connect with your target audience. Our brand suitability solutions help protect your brand, while enabling you to scale your reach.