Learn the Steps You Can Take to Protect Your Brand Safety
As of now, there isn’t a surefire way to avoid bad ad placements. However, with ad providers like Google renewing efforts to combat these unfortunate placements, advertisers that take the proper steps can feel confident in their brand safety.
Recent criticisms directed at Google — which accounts for over 40% of digital ad revenues in the U.S. — serve as a reminder that the large (and growing) digital advertising market is not without its problems. Over the last year, organizations ranging from The Guardian and the UK Cabinet Office to L’Oreal and Havas have pulled their ads from Google-owned YouTube over incidents in which ads were placed next to content produced by terrorist sympathizers and ethno-nationalists.
In an interview with Recode, Philipp Schindler, Google’s Chief Business Officer, emphasized that problematic ad placements only amount to about 1/1000th of a percent of advertisers’ total impressions. That may be true, but in the age of social media, all it takes is a single troubling ad impression on the wrong consumer for an “ad campaign gone wrong” to go viral — just think of the recent Pepsi ad that spread like wildfire overnight for all the wrong reasons.
To its credit, Google has taken a series of steps to address its advertisers’ brand safety concerns, but with more than 400 hours of video being uploaded to YouTube every minute, the reality is that good ad placement cannot be guaranteed by the supply side alone. Advertisers would be wise to complement the efforts of ad providers with preventative steps of their own. What follows are four of the most important things companies should keep in mind when working to protect their brand safety.
1. Aim for Influence, Not Reach
Advertising has always been a numbers game. In addition to including high-quality creative material, an ad must be placed before as many eyes as possible if it’s going to have any chance of success. In the past, companies knew more or less what they were going to be tacitly endorsing when they purchased an ad in the New York Times or between segments of the NBC Nightly News. The reach of their ad — that is, how many people saw it — was the only thing that companies needed to be concerned about.
With digital advertising this is no longer the case, especially with programmatic ad buying schemes, as companies don’t always know the specifics of where their ads are being placed. As such, the influence of an ad is rapidly becoming a more significant indicator of good advertising than its reach. Who sees an ad — and in what environment — is now far more important than how many people see it. Even if optimizing an ad’s influence forces a company to reduce the its reach, this is a worthwhile trade-off when it comes to protecting brand safety.
2. Utilize Every Tool at Your Disposal
In order to control and monitor the influence of their ads, companies need to use tools that are designed specifically for digital environments. Unfortunately, the drivers behind bad ad placements are myriad, meaning more often than not, an effective counter-offensive will have to include a variety of different tools.
Blacklisting tools, for instance, are highly effective at preventing ads from ending up on channels that a company has determined are off-brand, but they are typically incapable of compiling a list of such channels on their own. To accomplish that, a company needs language processing and image recognition tools capable of assessing headlines, video titles, and other text for unsavory content and screening images for explicit features.
3. Facilitate Human-Machine Collaboration
Even the best marketing tools can’t yet pick up on things like slang or subtext, so human eyes remain essential to effective white- and blacklisting. That being said, in our big data-driven world, manually supervising ad placements at scale is no longer possible. That means ensuring brand safety requires striking the right balance between human and machine monitoring.
4. Experiment with Cutting-Edge Technology like Artificial Intelligence
Artificial intelligence (AI) technologies like machine learning are particularly well-suited to operating within a collaborative human-machine environment. For example, with an AI marketing platform like Albert™, companies can indicate what kinds of media they do and do not want to purchase from ad providers prior to launching a campaign. The platform will learn from this guidance and blacklist not only those ad channels, but similar ones as well.
What’s more, AI like Albert delivers the type of de-siloed, cross-channel ad performance analytics that are vital to gauging ad influence. By leveraging machine learning algorithms and natural language processing capabilities, Albert is able to offer penetrating insight into the consumer segments that an ad campaign is reaching, which can actually function as a backdoor way of determining how and where one’s ads are being placed. Ultimately, artificial intelligence has the potential to solve brand safety once and for all.
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