Advertising Guest Columns
3 mins read

Why we need to evolve brand safety to brand suitability


Ensuring their advert is placed on quality sites next to brand-suitable stories has always been top of mind for advertisers as they consider media strategy. Brands who appear on false, negative or inflammatory content websites could do significant damage to their reputation. While this used to be easier to manage, in today’s era a negative brand safety incident can create consumer blowback with the internet enabling the global sharing of stories and screenshots in mere seconds.

Although this challenge has been growing over the years it has surged in 2020 with the pandemic of COVID-19. With the news agenda filled with mentions of the coronavirus, the landscape has become a whole lot trickier for advertisers to navigate and ensure their adverts are appearing alongside quality journalism.

Navigating the advertising space

Transparency around programmatic advertising, keyword blocking and ensuring quality journalism are all issues that have been facing the advertising industry for years. However, this has been highlighted during the era of COVID-19 as audiences are consuming more content than ever before but advertisers are closely monitoring and reconfiguring their budgets.

At the same time, insights from our Xandr Platform show that video impressions are up to 29% across EMEA in March 2020 vs February 2020 meaning brands have a unique opportunity to connect with engaged consumers on high-quality content.

Marketers can take this moment to build trust and affinity with consumers, going beyond ‘just selling’ a product. Generating empathetic, useful and appropriate adverts should be top of mind for advertisers as they navigate media strategy during these times.

Hitting the headlines

Advertisers always need to be where consumers are and with today’s news agenda this can be challenging as the coronavirus dominates the headlines. Although publishers have plenty of premium space, brands are hesitant to use it in case they appear by a negative news story. Relevance and context will always be an important aspect to advertising but with most of the news agenda focused on one area, brands need to make sure they can find a suitable place within the range of stories and dialogues under the pandemic umbrella.

The main goal brands have beyond basic brand safety is they want to know how the content they are associated with is going to reflect their values and support a positive affinity with consumers. To do that, sophisticated tools that provide the ability to serve ads on neutral or positive Covid-19 content are critical to brands’ assurances of brand safety and confidence in spend. In partnership with Reach plc and IBM Watson, we have developed one such tool, named Mantis, that filters content for positive/neutral/negative sentiment and packages up positive and neutral content for advertisers to purchase through our platform.

This type of machine-learning-driven tool enables advertisers to feel assured that their brands will be appearing next to only positive or neutral news whilst publishers can be confident that their news sites will be supported by premium advertising.

Collaboration across the industry

Collaboration amongst industry players and trade bodies is critical to flexible and sophisticated solutions as consumer attention fragments across an increasingly complex media landscape and COVID-19 further complicates the landscape.

The current one size fits all solution with brand safety is no longer working and a new premium brand safety solution needs to be created – one which is geared to connecting premium publishers and their consumers with brands. Industry bodies have been trying to tackle this issue and came together during 2019 to move current keyword capabilities forward. For example, the IAB has launched a content verification guide, providing advice on how to manage brand safety in a long-term, sustainable way.

Everyone in the advertising ecosystem has an active role to play in improving brand safety across the industry and this can only be achieved if all parts work together collaboratively. Even in the midst of a crisis, brands need to feel confident they can place their advert within the context of positive or neutral news stories. This in turn ensures advertising and resulting revenue for publishers allows trusted new sources around the globe. By working together across both sides of the ecosystem, advertisers and publishers can ensure the best content for consumers.

Harvin Gupta,
Director of Solutions Engineering, Xandr

About: Xandr is AT&T’s advertising company and a leader in addressable TV, creating a better solution for advertisers and media companies. Xandr Invest and Xandr Monetize, are strategic platforms that optimize media spend across screens for buyers and sellers alike. Community, powered by Xandr, is a curated marketplace of premium publishers, providing access to unique consumer insights in a brand-safe environment. For more than 143 years, AT&T has used data and technology to inform and improve the consumer experience.