Regan Baillie
Jul 3, 2017

8 tips for better brand safety

When all stakeholders fully understand the context of risk for the brand and all solutions available, strengthening safety measures becomes a more effective process, says IAB Singapore’s Regan Baillie.

Regan Baillie
Regan Baillie

While brand safety is not a new problem, this new era of machine learning, programmatic advertising and social platforms has changed the game significantly. What can we do to tighten the controls around where brands appear and how can we ensure that our brand partners are not compromised?

P&G, the world’s biggest digital advertiser, famously took a stand this year with CMO Mark Pritchard making a rousing statement on “cleaning up the media supply chain” and the need for the industry to unilaterally adopt third party verification and auditing.

It is clear the tools and systems for targeting or avoiding of certain types of content are not yet sophisticated enough to keep pace with the sheer volume of content being uploaded. But that doesn’t mean things will always stay the same.

The good news is, if we compare today to 10 or 15 years ago when networks were taking a significant chunk of digital revenue spend with rudimentary safety measures, there are more advanced brand safety and verification technologies than ever before.

Pritchard specifically called out TAG (Trustworthy Accountability Group) as a set of standards, which all P&G digital suppliers would have to adhere to. TAG is a global set of industry standards based around IQG (Inventory Quality Guidelines) “providing greater brand safety assurances that ads will not appear next to content that they decide is inappropriate”.

This set of standards, and wider brand safety and ad verification systems such as IAS, MOAT, Double Verify, Brightcloud and comScore will help ensure that advertisers and their agencies are not at risk and that they are getting what they paid for: a valid, high quality, human eyeball appearing in an appropriate, premium, professional, brand safe environment.

These systems and solutions mentioned are available in Asian markets, but viewability for mobile video is still in development and there is still a reliance on Flash/ VAST as an adserving protocol, which negates a number of brand safety tools.

Up to 40 percent of the non-YouTube and Facebook video inventory in Asia-Pacific still uses legacy tech. So as an industry, we need to move to HTML5 JS VPAID as soon as possible to allow unilateral deployment of ad verification across all markets and formats.

Building protective layers

Ultimately, all parties have a responsibility for ensuring brand safety both at a campaign level and to maintain the reputation and credibility of our industry.

So as more media owners in the region move away from legacy tech to newer technology, what can be done in the interim for concerned advertisers?

What we do see is that when the brand, agency and technology companies work together to understand fully the context of risk for the brand and the full suite of brand safety measures available, the process works much more effectively.

Here are some actions advertisers can take to ensure the risk of brand safety breaches are minimised and in instances where an issue rises, it can be detected and rectified rapidly:

  • Prioritise direct programmatic deals with known publishers (PMP or programmatic guaranteed). This avoids the open ad exchange layer and ensures control of where ads are running.
  • When using ad exchanges, use standard contextual targeting to select negative keywords and avoid unsafe content to include. This includes the following keyword categories (Crime, Adult, Military, Terrorism, Tobacco, Downloads, Arms, Death/Injury, Spam, Drugs, Obscenity, Hate Speech). Brands who may be more at risk can go one stage further and create customized lists such as in the recent sensitive nature of advertising in Thailand.
  • Clearly set out terms to publishers to protect you from ad slots around copyright infringement, deceptive practices, delivery of viruses/spyware/malware, etc. the list also includes violence, sex, profanity, racism, sexism, religion, gambling, pornography, or any other subject matter which may reflect negatively on the advertiser.
  • The major DSP’s have strict publisher rules in place to safeguard buyers and ban sellers/publishers who are selling brand unsafe placements or fraudulent ads. But you can also buy from sellers (ad exchanges) within DSP’s with whom your partner has direct personal contact and where there can be a direct recourse. Avoid any unknown sellers and focus on quality sellers.
  • Request additional technology layers such as Integral Ad Science or MOAT to block content or monitor brand safety.
  • Even quality and premium sellers may offer placements on video aggregators where there is user generated content. However, UGC (moderated and un-moderated) as a content category can be excluded within the major DSP’s during campaign set up if required.
  • Work with DSP technology companies to filter out fraudulent and unsafe inventory. This includes automated domain matching (ensuring that the declared domains match the exact domains from which the bid request is coming from), employing and updating platform domain blacklists and block lists of IP addresses.
  • Work with partners to create brand or sector whitelists and provide a method to vet extensive whitelists prior to campaign start so brands can benefit from scale, quality and safety.

Regan Baillie is an IAB Singapore board member and managing director of Xaxis Singapore.

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