Brand safety and ad fraud are concerns that remain top-of-mind for marketers. When it comes to brand safety, 82% of adults say it is important that a brand’s ads appear on content that is safe, accurate and trustworthy, with nearly two-thirds of consumers likely to stop using the brand or product if they viewed the brand’s advertising beside false, objectionable or inflammatory content, according to a Harris Poll and DoubleVerify study.
“I think brand safety is top of mind for everyone, not just CMOs,” says Jordan Khoo, managing director, APAC, DoubleVerify. “It used to be just CMOs, but now it’s CEOs getting involved. They can’t say it’s not their responsibility because it’s their brand content that is coming into play.”
The consensus is that brand safety is increasingly becoming more of a team effort, whereby all employees across all levels of an organisation have a responsibility. “Content to be feared can come from every different corner, especially for a brand like Disney that prides itself in being able to be enjoyed by everybody in the family,” says Daniel Tan, Head of Studio Entertainment (Malaysia and Singapore) for The Walt Disney Company. According to Tan, “feared content” is broad and ranges from health, to terrorism, politics, religion, racism and any kind of content that could potentially offend somebody.
For Disney, having just gone through a major acquisition of Fox, it’s become especially important to make sure that all new employees are ingrained to the same brand philosophy that’s always been practiced in the past. “We have to make sure that the brand messaging is cascaded across every employee in the organisation across different hierarchies.”
But can the industry do more to minimise or even prevent brand safety issues from occurring in the first place? DoubleVerify’s APAC MD, Jordan Khoo, says there are already solutions to help give brands greater peace of mind. “With programmatic, we can apply certain technologies to avoid buying into risky placements for media spots from the onset and at the same time we can make sure that ads are being blocked on sites that run breaking news that may be objectionable,” says Khoo. “We’re all about making sure that we’re protecting the brand before the media is actually served. Our goal is to provide that protection pre-emptively.”
Brand content appearing alongside fake news continues to be a top concern. Khoo says that DoubleVerify looks at data points ranging from content, taxonomy, languages, lto inks in and links out, in order to prevent this. “There are many things that we look at to classify the content in order to help brands to avoid appearing on fake news content.”
But beyond simply relying on technology, brands are also taking their own preventative measures to avoid being caught up in brand safety issues. “We operate in over 180 different countries. The biggest thing that we trust is our people on the ground to have those conversations and understand how things are,” says Amit Dasgupta, VP brand & commerce, Adidas. “For every campaign that we run we have long discussions with people on the ground to see what works and we do understand that not one size fits all.”
More frequently, brands such as Zalora are relying less on agencies to look after their media and are instead looking in-house. "We do the SEO in-house, performance marketing, affiliates, creative – we started this way because we wanted to control all these areas,” says Alin Dobera, head of brand partnerships. “We’ve built our own attribution models, we’ve built the frameworks, we’ve built specialities across marketing teams to be able to get the results that we would like to have.” In light of this, Zalora now has brands coming to them asking for help with their own media and marketing services.
Alongside brand safety, ad fraud remains a top concern for advertisers. David Porter, speaking as chair of WFA Media Forum, APAC, says that research the WFA has done in this area suggests a pretty high level of fraud goes on at a pretty high level of certainty.
“We’re starting to take the view, as a body, that the way to solve this is to identify the publishers that run a tight ship and work with them. Rather than fix a whole industry that will always have certain bad players in it. After all, we’re not policemen,” says Porter.
A majority view is that the only hope the industry has is to try and minimise ad fraud, but to eradicate it altogether will never happen.
"The fraud industry globally ranges from $8 billion to $60 billion. It’s incredible how much fraud could potentially be taken out of the industry and how big fraud as an industry actually is," says Conrad Tallariti, commercial director, APAC, DoubleVerify. "There’s always new technology coming out and there’s always some 16-year-old kid who figures out how to put up open source code for a publisher. But there are always workarounds and that’s why companies like ours continue to exist today.”
Dominique Touchaud, Brand Director of P&G, says that ad fraud has reached a stage whereby he accepts that 30% of spend will go down the drain. "I’m not paying for 100%, I’m paying for the 70% that works. I can accept that if I feel, as a marketer, that I’m paying the right price."
For Touchaud, the accuracy of data has always been an issue. "What matters more is not so much finding the perfect data, because then you’re working to get the perfect data, when our job is to get the perfect commercial proposition to get the products out there. We’re not there to chase the perfect data."
There is a consensus that, at the end of the day, data is just numbers and is often given too much focus. Many feel that in the future there needs to be a better balance between art and science, data and creativity.
"Something I’m not sure we’ve done a great job of yet as an industry is uniting the creative part of the industry with the data and what these two things could do together," says Porter.
Meanwhile, to address concerns around brand safety, ad fraud and viewability, Khoo says that his team at DoubleVerify, in terms of verification, is trying to simplify all the data sets around a campaign and instead offer one simple measurement that they call 'authentic reach'. "Essentially, it’s a clean media impression, which for us is the ultimate definition of quality," he says. "It’s focussed on impressions that are ad-fraud free, brand safe, and viewed by a human – because what’s the point of having high view impressions when it’s not actually viewed by a human, but by a robot."