Brand Safety Recommendations for Advertisers During the COVID-19 Pandemic

Authored by Nachiket Deole, Head of Sales – India, DoubleVerify

Today’s news cycle, dominated by content centered around the pandemic in India, has led to an information epidemic, where there is a slew of misinformation about COVID-19 — especially on digital and online channels. This is exacerbated by the increased access to mobile phones and social media, which causes information to spread more quickly.

According to a DV-Harris Poll research, 87% of consumers feel that brands bear responsibility for ensuring their ads run adjacent to content that is safe, and 65% of consumers would be likely to stop using the brand or product if they viewed the brand’s digital ad next to false or inflammatory content. As global online content consumption increases exponentially, brands must ensure that their ads are shown in safe and appropriate environments to avoid potential risks to their brand reputation.

Fearing the repercussions, advertisers tend to pull back on their ad spend and refuse to allow their ads to be placed next to news that reports on the pandemic. Even worse, they might consider blocking news content wholesale or use broad keywords to protect themselves from negative content. However, this can significantly limit the scale of an ad campaign and inadvertently affect the ability of trusted news publishers to monetize their content.

We believe that advertisers should take a nuanced approach towards brand safety and suitability. Brand safety can often be quite subjective – as something that can be acceptable to one advertiser may be unacceptable to another. For example, not all coronavirus content is negative – appearing next to news stories related to philanthropy, medical advancements or recovery, and such content could be appropriate for many brands. Hence, advertisers today need to take a more pragmatic approach and evolve from brand safety to brand suitability measures to help define each brand’s unique positioning, target audience and set of brand values and sensitivities.

With the right brand suitability profile that establishes a strong floor of protection, advertisers can have more authority over where their ads are being shown — based on a variety of controls such as inclusion/exclusion lists and content avoidance categories. These controls offer protection against specific content that is unsuitable for the brand, while still supporting trusted news sites.

Here are a few recommendations for advertisers to keep in mind while employing brand safety and suitability tools:

Understand and set clear brand suitability guidelines: Consider the impact of COVID-19 on the brand, its values and tolerance of appearing next to COVID-19 content. Brands should always ask themselves the question: “Is there content that only our brand will want to avoid?”

Utilize brand safety toolkits that are available to you: Using avoidance categories, keyword blocklists or exception lists can open up scale for trusted sites without compromising protection

Don’t avoid all news: Brands should work with trusted news sources with content that aligns with the brand’s values.

Stay true to brand values: Set boundaries on what you will and will not accept, and use technology to manage those controls — e.g., make exceptions for homepages and appropriate section pages of major news sites while still avoiding other objectionable content.

Review results regularly: Work closely with third-party verification providers to support unique brand suitability preferences if needed and understand where the ads are appearing. If brand suitability incident rates are high, understand what is driving this at a domain, placement, or publisher level.

Practicing these simple measures will enable brands to build a sustainable and healthy advertising ecosystem — from advertisers to publishers. Ultimately, brand safety is all about the amalgamation of efforts between brands and digital media platforms that helps deliver high quality and safe customer experiences. Proper auditing of content, leveraging new technologies and analyzing regular traffic is hence crucial in making a brand truly successful.

 DISCLAIMER: The views expressed are solely of the author and does not necessarily subscribe to it. 


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