For many advertisers, connecting with their target audience is becoming increasingly more complex. No, we are not just talking about the multitudes of devices, platforms, preferences, data sources, and creative types (to name just a few). Today’s consumer wants the identity of the brands they buy from to align with their own views and values. This new(ish) hurdle for marketers has exposed a weakness within many walled gardens and created an opportunity for buying media through more transparent, open internet platforms.


The Often-Overlooked Risk



Ensuring a suitable environment for media is more mission-critical than ever for marketers. In today’s climate, consumers care about company values. 47% of internet users surveyed across the globe say they switched to a different product or service because a company violated their values (source, eMarketer). This number increases when looking a Millenial and Gen Z consumers. The risk of alienating nearly half of any customer base should be top of mind for all campaigns. Brands should be increasingly careful about advertising in placements next to content that is contradictory to the identity of the brand and those of their target audience.


In a world of walled gardens, it can be hard to determine which content will serve alongside the advertisement until after the ad unit is live. Since the majority of content on social platforms is user-generated, the chances that your ad will place next to a controversial post are higher than in the more controlled environments of traditional channels like television and radio. 


Buying Media Programmatically to Increase Visibility into Content Safety


Buying media on the Open Web is one of the best ways for advertisers to gain control and visibility into brand safety. It’s a common misconception that the environment has a relatively limited ability to control where inventory is displayed. In reality, programmatic media has some of the most advanced brand safety capabilities across the digital landscape and has access to a wide range of rich media placements such as connected-tv, audio, display, and native. This wide range of inventory makes programmatic buying a good option for advertisers to reach their audience across multiple touchpoints while gaining more transparency and control over brand safety.


Customizing Brand Safety Features


Brand safety is not uniform. An auto advertiser would want to avoid placement alongside an article that’s covering a car accident. An auto insurance advertiser, on the other hand, may not be as apprehensive about appearing next to that content.


Traditionally, advertisers have used keyword blocking and blacklisting to control the content programmatic ads serve alongside. However, in today’s 24-hour publishing cycle, content can change rapidly. Brands need to have the ability to clearly define their suitability in real-time as news and context changes.


Content scoring is a more advanced solution where advertisers can establish the levels and categories of risk that they are comfortable with (violence, political, etc.). Machine learning algorithms will then assess factors such as keywords, publisher category, and risky URLs in real-time and only bid on placements that match an advertiser’s pre-defined risk tolerances.


Defining custom levels of risk tolerance and having the ability to monitor and adjust these levels in real-time is the best way for advertisers to feel assured their ads deliver in a safe environment.


A Hands on Approach to Brand Safety


Finding the right safety solution is often only thought about at the beginning of a campaign or engagement, but at Direct Agents, we take a more proactive approach. Before starting an engagement with any brand we make sure to have a comprehensive understanding of their brand values and risk tolerances towards specific content. After assessing these factors we determine which buying platforms and publishers will be most effective at achieving their business objectives while minimizing risk. Most importantly we recognize that brand safety isn’t something that can be set once and then forgotten about. As current events and context change we constantly re-evaluate our partners and publishers to maintain the most effective safety solution throughout the lifetime of a campaign or engagement.


At the moment there’s no one-size-fits-all brand safety solution. For this reason, brands and agencies must employ sophisticated content safety protocols and embrace the advertising environments that allow them to do so.


Trevor Clune, Yield Analyst


If you have any questions or would like to learn more, please reach out to marketing@directagents.com