Brand safety has become a major issue for advertisers, following the discovery that some of the best-known brands were unwittingly paying for advertising on sites featuring videos by ISIS, thus unwittingly funding terrorism. At the same time, they need to be conscious of brand perception. What do consumers think of a brand whose ads are showing up next to videos that promote hate?
Google recently faced this issue with its YouTube network, and ads appearing on user-created videos, some of which contain offensive content.. Earlier this month, YouTube vlogger Logan Paul was forced to remove a video shot in Japan, which apparently contained a suicide victim’s body. The video, which prompted public outrage, and was deleted within 24 hours, wasn’t the first time YouTube allowed offensive content to be posted.. Only a few months earlier, YouTube influencer PewDiePie posted an anti-Semitic joke on his global platform, a mistake that cost him his Disney sponsorship.
Brands argue that YouTube should review and approve videos before they can appear on the site and feature advertising. Apparently, Google’s listening. They announced a plan to vet the top-tier YouTube videos it bundles together for major advertisers. They plan to do this using both human moderators and artificial intelligence software to flag videos considered inappropriate for ads.
Will this be enough to prevent ads from being placed on offensive videos, or is there more to be done? Some would argue that these new restrictions won’t stop such videos from making it through the screening. After all, Logan Paul’s video was given approval by YouTube’s own content assessment team even after being flagged by concerned viewers.
These examples highlight the issue of brand safety. But what’s the solution? Well, the first step is for brands to demand more transparency from their agencies. This means reviewing a site-by-site view of the entire ad buy. Brands should also expect credit refunds for fraudulent or unsafe ad placements, and have the capability to create “blacklists” of incompatible sites and content areas..
Beyond avoiding offensive sites, brands also need to consider relevance in their programmatic buys—from the seemingly obvious consideration of “Is my English language ad appearing on an English language site?” to the more data-driven, “Are viewers engaging with my content?” Positive customer perception also means relevance—are you connecting with people in a way that’s meaningful to their lives?
Because ad placement is so important, brands should expect their agencies to consider the broader context of ad placement, rather than focusing on targeted keywords. Depending on the context in which they appear, keywords may not always align with the brand’s focus.
These are just some of the questions brands should ask of their agencies to help guarantee brand safety. What other questions do you think they should they be asking?