Brand Safety: Everything You Need to Know to Keep Your Ads Brand Safe

April 29, 2024 By

Brand safety is crucial for safeguarding your company’s reputation. Misplaced ad campaigns that unintentionally appear alongside harmful content could imply to customers that your brand supports these negative messages.

A recent UN report highlights the risks: “Digital technologies can facilitate harm to people, including bullying, harassment, fraud, and misinformation.”

This highlights the importance of being vigilant about the ecosystems where your ads are displayed. Even unintentional placements can adversely reflect on your brand.

Implementing effective brand safety strategies to mitigate the reputational risks associated with programmatic advertising is essential. By understanding where your ads are placed and ensuring they appear in brand-safe environments, you can protect your company from the potential fallout of negative associations.

Continue reading to learn the key strategies for maintaining a brand-safe advertising environment and protecting your company’s public image.

What is brand safety?

Brand safety is a critical practice in the advertising industry that ensures a brand’s advertising does not appear alongside harmful, inappropriate, or offensive content. This process involves vigilant monitoring and strategic ad placement to prevent associations with misinformation, hate speech, or other damaging material. Ads inadvertently appearing in such contexts can lead audiences to believe the brand endorses these negative messages, potentially leading to customer distrust, negative publicity, and damage to brand integrity.

Surveys reveal that 88% of consumers believe advertisers must ensure their online advertising avoids proximity to unsafe material. By utilizing advanced tactics and tools like Seekr, companies can guarantee that their advertisements only appear in environments that uphold their brand’s integrity and commitment to truth.

The difference between brand safety and brand suitability

While brand safety and brand suitability are often used interchangeably, they serve distinct purposes within the advertising industry. Brand safety focuses on preventing a brand’s advertising from being placed next to universally inappropriate content, thereby protecting the brand’s reputation. Conversely, brand suitability aligns advertising campaigns with content that reflects a brand’s values and reaches an appropriate audience.

For example, a pharmaceutical company practicing brand safety would avoid advertising next to content promoting pseudoscience to maintain its reputation for scientific accuracy, thus preventing poor associations and targeting the wrong audience. On the other hand, for brand suitability, a brand with a nutrition-focused app might strategically place ads on wellness blogs and nutritionist websites, where the audience is likely to value organic and healthy eating. This alignment ensures that the ads support the brand’s credibility and effectively reach the desired target audience.

Both brand safety and brand suitability are essential for a brand’s successful market positioning. The former protects against negative associations, while the latter promotes positive ones. Joanna O’Connell, VP and Principal Analyst at Forrester, emphasizes the importance of distinguishing between the fundamental necessity of ‘brand safety’ and the more nuanced ‘suitability,’ which seeks to match a brand’s message with its optimal advertising environment.

Why is brand safety important to businesses?

Brand safety is crucial for preserving brand equity and ensuring the long-term success of any business. With 40% of marketers increasingly focusing on brand safety, it’s clear that this aspect of ad tech is essential to prevent lasting damage to a brand’s reputation. Neglecting brand safety risks causing irreversible harm to a brand’s image and eroding consumer trust.

When ads are strategically placed within contextually relevant content that resonates with the audience, it not only enhances the brand’s image but also suggests an endorsement of the message. For instance, ads for compostable gift wrap appearing alongside articles about eco-friendly parties can reinforce a brand’s commitment to environmental sustainability.

Brand safety extends beyond protecting reputation to significantly boosting advertising efficiency. By utilizing blocklists to avoid inappropriate content and bot traffic, businesses can ensure that their ad spend is targeting the appropriate audience, thereby increasing the likelihood of conversions. For example, ads for cruelty-free skincare products are less effective and potentially damaging if displayed next to content that glorifies animal cruelty.

Conversely, aligning ads with content that reflects your brand values can attract customers more likely to support and purchase from your brand, thus providing a competitive edge and promoting sustainability. Managing brand risk effectively is not just a protective measure—it’s a strategic approach that enhances a brand’s overall appeal and market position.

Key elements of brand safety

You need to cover all the bases to avoid brand safety issues in digital advertising.

Here are the main elements to consider when devising a brand safety plan:

Avoiding controversial content

Brand safety measures are necessary to prevent ads from being displayed alongside content deemed unsafe by the public, such as hate speech, misinformation, or explicit material.

Given that many consumers view a significant portion of online content as dangerous or inappropriate, vigilant monitoring and strict filtering are crucial to avoid these areas and protect your brand’s reputation.

Protecting against negative associations

While not universally unsafe, certain content may be harmful in association with your brand. For example, a travel agency’s ad next to an article about travel-related accidents might seem insensitive, undermining the brand’s values and appearing incongruent.

Ad placement control

It is vital to ensure ads appear only in safe and suitable contexts. For example, ads placed near content endorsing controversial figures could wrongly imply your brand’s agreement with their views. You can control where and when your ads are displayed using brand safety tools, ensuring they align with your brand’s values.

Ad fraud prevention

Protecting against ad fraud prevents financial losses from ads displayed on sites with fraudulent traffic, such as those generated by bots. By combating ad fraud, you ensure your advertising budget contributes to genuine customer engagement.

Data privacy and security

Ensuring the secure handling of customer data in compliance with privacy regulations is critical. Data breaches can severely damage a brand’s reputation and trustworthiness.

Compliance with regulations

Ads must adhere to the advertising and privacy laws applicable in each region and industry. Non-compliance can result in severe legal consequences, including hefty fines or closure.

Third-party partnerships

The safety standards of your ad networks, publishers, and other partners should match your own. Regularly vetting and reviewing these partnerships ensures alignment and prevents reputational damage by association.

Monitoring and reporting

Continuous monitoring and robust reporting mechanisms are necessary to detect and address any lapses in ad placement, ensuring that your brand safety strategies are effectively implemented and maintained.

Brand safety best practices

As companies focus more on brand safety, the levels of brand risk decrease, highlighting the effectiveness of the right practices in mitigating potential risks. Here are some best practices to manage brand safety effectively:

  • Understand your brand values: Start by clearly defining your brand’s values. This knowledge helps identify the types of content that reflect these values and those that don’t, setting a strong foundation for your brand safety efforts.
  • Develop a brand safety policy: Create a detailed brand safety policy that outlines the types of content, web pages, and online channels your brand should avoid or engage with. Ensure this policy is communicated clearly across your team.
  • Use blacklists and whitelists: Regularly maintain and update blacklists of keywords and content topics to avoid, and whitelists of approved content to associate with your brand. Adjust these lists to proactively block unsafe content and align ads with your brand values.
  • Leverage content categorization: Utilize content categorization tools to classify web pages and content. Directing ads towards topics that meet your brand safety standards allows more precise ad placements.
  • Adopt contextual targeting: Use contextual targeting to place ads in environments that resonate with your brand’s message and values. This approach blocks bad content and ensures that ads reach audiences likely to engage.
  • Implement regular monitoring: Establish a robust system to monitor ad placements in real time. Tools like Moat can help track these placements and identify any misalignments.
  • Integrate ad verification services: Ad verification services are essential for maintaining vigilance over ad placements, ensuring ads are viewable and free from fraud.
  • Provide regular training and education: Developing a strong brand safety policy is only effective if your team follows it. Implement ongoing training programs to keep your team updated on brand safety best practices and industry trends.
  • Regularly review and update policies: The digital advertising landscape is continually evolving. Regularly update your brand safety strategy to accommodate new standards, technologies, and trends, ensuring protection against emerging threats.
  • Prioritize brand safety: Ensuring brand safety is crucial for preserving your brand’s reputation and trust with consumers. It also prevents wasteful ad spending by targeting the right audience and avoiding unsafe environments.

Prioritize brand safety to preserve your brand

Brand safety is crucial for protecting your brand’s reputation and ensuring long-term success. By implementing robust safety measures, you can avoid negative associations, maintain consumer trust, and maximize advertising efficiency.

With the right strategies in place, your advertising efforts will avoid harmful content and align perfectly with your brand values, enhancing your market presence.

Take action now to safeguard your brand.

Tailor your brand safety approach and ensure your advertising resonates with the right audience, every time.

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