Brand Suitability and the Future of the Media and Publishing Industry
The digital advertising industry has been dealing with an unprecedented level of uncertainty and risk due to the events since 2020, which have brought brand safety into the spotlight yet again. As web traffic continues to surge, publishers and advertisers struggle to monetize the record levels of engagement. This is partly due to the lack of tools available to confidently navigate the challenging content ecosystem and prevent ads from appearing in unsafe environments.
The traditional approach to brand safety focused on preventing ads from appearing alongside problematic or inappropriate content by using keyword blocking and URL blacklisting. However, this approach has become increasingly outdated and ineffective in the face of today’s programmatic market, where customization and control are crucial. In 2017, several high-profile incidents involving ads from major brands highlighted the impact of lax brand safety strategies on brand equity, leading to the emergence of brand safety as a common discussion among marketers and publishers.
One of the main problems with traditional brand safety tactics is that they rely on exact matching keywords, which fail to take into account the context of the content. For example, the word “shot” might be associated with firearms or injury, leading advertisers to block any content mentioning it. However, “shot” can also be used in the context of healthcare, sports, technology, and photography, resulting in the elimination of valuable inventory from the advertiser’s bid. Words without context are an ineffective filter for determining brand-appropriate inventory.
Brand suitability is the logical evolution of brand safety, offering a more nuanced approach that uses individual brand profiles, market research insights, and strategic positioning to identify the advertising environments that will help digital campaigns drive outcomes for the business. Unlike traditional brand safety tools, which rely on cookie-cutter approaches to avoid unsafe or inappropriate content, brand suitability provides rigorous context-based protections for advertisers from appearing near unsafe, illegal, or inappropriate content while also green-lighting significant inventory that is safe and suitable for most advertisers.
Publishers play a monumental role in the shift from brand safety to brand suitability, as they are disproportionately affected by the use of blacklisting and keyword blocking. Outdated tactics can limit audiences and scale for advertisers, resulting in missed revenue opportunities for publishers. Moreover, broad blacklisting and keyword blocking can have a lasting impact on the broader media and publishing industry, funneling advertising dollars away from reputable news and content sources and opening up the door for content farms, low-quality journalism, and intellectual property theft.
Brand suitability can help bridge the divide between advertisers’ goals of reaching receptive audiences and funding reputable news organizations and publishers. While there will always be high-risk content that’s not appropriate for all advertisers, a blanket, keyword-centric approach is not the answer. A more nuanced and contextual approach to brand safety can provide advertisers with the confidence to navigate the online news cycle while helping publishers fully monetize their inventory and contribute to a healthy media ecosystem.
In conclusion, the digital advertising industry needs to move beyond outdated and ineffective brand safety tactics that rely on keyword blocking and URL blacklisting. Instead, brand suitability offers a more nuanced approach that uses individual brand profiles, market research insights, and strategic positioning to identify advertising environments that are safe and suitable for most advertisers. By adopting this approach, advertisers can confidently navigate the online news cycle while helping publishers fully monetize their inventory and contribute to a healthy media ecosystem.