Advertising Guest Columns
3 mins read

So, what’s going on with keyword blocking in digital advertising?

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We’ve been having this conversation for years now – but thanks to a certain global pandemic, age-old digital advertising questions are rising up to the surface of even mainstream news. Most consumers know that advertising plays a major role in supporting publishing – but the inner workings of the industry are coming to light. Advertisers are understandably worried about what coverage of the pandemic does for their adjacent content, while publishers are concerned about conflicting needs from their audiences and advertisers.

So what needs to happen to align the industry on brand safety tactics? Here, I highlight three opportunities to move the conversation forward.

It’s time to communicate

Now more than ever is a time where publishers need to be having a direct dialogue with their agencies and advertisers to understand what their brand’s suitability goals are. It’s paramount that advertisers nail this down, define their goals, and outline what their concerns might be. This is an opportunity to ensure that marketers understand what publisher environments entail, the purpose of their content, and how the combination of both content and audience, that an individual publisher provides, can actually serve to support a brand’s objectives.

Educate advertisers on their role

Education is key right now. We’re in a climate of misunderstanding between the sorts of strategies that brands and agencies are using, the types of technologies they’re applying, how they’re applying them – and, how that aligns with the content environment they’re trying to target. Sometimes, these things don’t match. However, it can be solved with some basic education that, to date, has been lacking.

Advertisers are beginning to understand the implications of taking broad brand safety strokes, such as blanket keyword blocking, in the name of brand safety. By reviewing keywords lists frequently and prioritising suitability tactics, driven by contextual targeting, we will move to a more supportive ecosystem that benefits all.

Tech that ticks the right boxes

Verification technology is a really powerful tool and has come a long way in the last decade. Marketers can now use brand suitability tech to its full potential without sacrificing the scale of their advertising efforts or leaving publishers out in the cold. In truth, the importance of advertising to actually fund independent journalism has never been more clear.

The shift toward contextual intelligence technology, specifically, paired with increasingly sophisticated machine learning models provides marketers with greater flexibility. This allows for more nuanced, nimble approaches to address brand suitability. Contextual targeting works by taking a deeper look at the content on a given page and assessing its suitability based on the topics covered, whether the tone is negative or positive, and which emotions are conveyed. Evolving verification technologies help marketers protect their brands from unsuitable content. They also grant them the flexibility to reach consumers in the right places without limiting scale and negatively impacting publishers.

And finally…

So, back to my original question – what needs to happen to align the industry on brand safety tactics?

In reality, there is no one size fits all solution, but instead a combination of three tactics – communication, education, and sophisticated technology. The only way to effectively make use of technological advancements is for publishers and advertisers to bridge the gap and collaborate, and for the industry as a whole to continually check itself and ask, ‘what can we be doing better?’. Together, as an industry, we can accomplish change and move the conversation forward.

Paul Nasse
Northern Europe Managing Director, IAS

AboutIntegral Ad Science (IAS) is the global market leader in digital ad verification, offering technologies that drive high-quality advertising media. IAS equips advertisers and publishers with the insight and technology to protect their advertising investments from fraud and unsafe environments as well as to capture consumer attention, and drive business outcomes. IAS is headquartered in New York with global operations in 22 offices across 13 countries.