Sink or Swim: The Key to Navigating The Brand Safety Waters

A recent Harris and DoubleVerify poll of over 2,000 people found that two-thirds would likely stop using a brand if they saw an ad for that company run alongside ‘false, objectionable or inflammatory content.’ That spells trouble for brands. User-generated content like social media is a hotspot for our attention and good branding is a lot like apartment hunting– location, location, location. But with the number of channels steadily increasing, the brand safety waters are murkier than ever, and the sharks are circling.

Social media content continues to increase, yet there is a significant lack of policing it. A survey by Verizon Media and Insights Now last week revealed consumers encounter offensive content on a weekly basis on Facebook (59%), Twitter (55%) and Snapchat (48%). How can brands have confidence that they are associating with the right content? Brands cannot afford to risk their valuable reputations in this way.

It’s more than just avoiding inappropriate content, too. Brands don’t want to be placed next to direct competitors for fear of muddying their message. They also don’t want their ads adjacent to news of scandals or anything too political (almost all news today). This includes, for example, extremely partisan content that could alienate the brand’s audience or be in direct conflict to a brand’s value.

So, who is responsible for brand safety? The content generator? The advertiser? The publisher? It’s up to agencies and publishers to provide a safe environment for brands. Most consumers don’t know the many steps that led to an ad appearing next to offensive content. They definitely don’t know about the automation of programmatic– they just make the leap to associating the brand with offensive or unsafe content.

Brand safety has been an issue since at least 1953, when Phillip Morris cigarettes expressed concern over airing their ads during “I Love Lucy”– married couple shown sleeping in the same room. The age of social media and user-generated content has only made things trickier. The key to staying brand safe is to deliver truth and transparency. Be honest about the environments into which you are placing ads. And most importantly, choose environments you know you can trust. Only then can you ensure a 100% brand-safe environment for your ads and stay afloat in these brand safety waters.