Brand Safety is a Collective Challenge
In an age where one misstep can cause irreparable damage to long-term brand equity and short-term sales targets, brands are more concerned than ever with where their content appears. Blis, VP, Jamie Crespi, believes the responsibility to remedy this issue and rebuild brand trust falls on the adtech industry.
When it comes to brand safety 2017 could be considered the year of the apology. Billions of dollars were pulled as platforms tripped over themselves to try to make good on failed safety promises while household names like AT&T, Verizon, and Johnson & Johnson grounded campaigns for fear of being associated with the unpleasant or extreme content.
Whether the worst offenders or not, Google and YouTube were excoriated under the spotlight on several occasions for oversights and unsavory practices, forcing them to invest in strengthening their defenses. As a result, 2018 was heralded as being the year of collaboration – an inflection point that would see brands and platforms working together to build a brave new world.
And yet here we are almost halfway through the year and little has seemingly changed. Despite ultimatums from the industry’s biggest spenders, P&G and Unilever. Despite a multitude of negative headlines. Despite ‘mea culpa’s and statements of intent from platforms, the recent announcement from J.P.Morgan/Chase that it is taking protection into its own hands suggests that brands are no more confident today than they were last year. The situation is untenable and we, as an industry, have to work together to address its extent.
In an age in which one misstep can cause irreparable damage to long-term brand equity as well as short-term sales targets, brands are more concerned than ever with where their content appears.
When YouTube is found running ads on disturbing and dangerous content, it becomes an issue for the entire advertising technology industry. Like it or not, the responsibility to remedy this issue and rebuild brand trust falls on us. We shouldn’t have brands such as Chase creating internal solutions to protect themselves. So what’s the answer? To me it’s clear. As an industry, we need to create solutions that treat our clients’ brands as if they were our own.
First, we need to build solutions that provide real ROI. The data needs to be available and accurate. We’re all better off when brands are reaching the right consumers with the right messages . With 37% of consumers saying their perception of a brand is altered when they see ads placed alongside offensive content, marketers are searching for peace of mind. 80% have a serious concern about the safety of the brand and the content and publishers it’s associated with.
Second, we need to incorporate brand safety protocols into the solutions we market. In the short-term, the longevity of solutions depends on it. In the long-term, so too does the future of marketing technology. Regulators are going to take years to catch up and thus it’s on us to develop a safe place for marketers to spend advertising dollars . If we can’t, they’ll find other ways to invest budgets. Unilever’s CEO encapsulated this perfectly by stating that the business would not be investing in platforms or environments that do not protect children or which create division in society, or which promote anger or hate.
Finally, the industry must increase focus on creating transparency to enable all parties to see exactly what’s working and what’s not . Complicating things further, every brand will have a different tolerance for what is acceptable, and what isn’t. Platforms and publishers will have to adapt to this – putting control in the hands of the advertisers to define what is safe and what is scandalous, and setting parameters accordingly.
Rather than being exceptional in their approach, Unilever and Chase could be the first sign of things to come. If we as an industry don’t work to build safer solutions, brands like Chase will increasingly be pushed to create their own alternatives. While these three steps may not eliminate the industry’s brand safety problem it will certainly put the reins back in the hands of those best equipped to lead the charge collectively rather than resting on the shoulders of individual brands and buyers.