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  • Writer's pictureHearst Pittsburgh

Brand Safety 101: Navigating Digital Minefields

When it comes to digital placements and ad adjacency, brand safety matters.


The online world reflects the chaos of the real world. With recent years filled with global pandemics, international conflicts, political turmoil, and an explosion of content (both human and AI-generated), it's no surprise that the digital landscape can feel just as unruly.



To put it simply, there are some unsavory corners of the digital world that brand managers would be wise to steer clear of. As advertisers increasingly utilize automated and programmatic ad placement strategies, this presents significant challenges.


In fact, 88% of consumers say it's very or somewhat important that advertisers ensure their ads are not placed near brand-unsafe content (Peer39).

While automation can streamline the ad buying process and enhance efficiency, it often lacks the nuanced understanding required to navigate complex brand safety considerations. Factors such as contextual targeting, social sensitivity, and cultural nuances demand a human touch to ensure optimal outcomes.


Ensuring branded content appears in safe and suitable environments is not a preference – it's a necessity.


Brand safety refers to the proactive steps taken by advertisers and media buyers to ensure that their ads are displayed in appropriate and suitable environments across digital platforms. It involves avoiding associations with content that could potentially harm the brand's reputation or offend its target audience. It's also critical to maintaining regulatory compliance.


Think of crafting a brand safety strategy as proactively creating a safe bubble around your brand in the wild, wild web. This includes steering clear of websites, videos, or social media posts that contain sensitive, controversial, or objectionable material.


Taking measures to ensure that your ads are displayed alongside content that aligns with your brand values can help media buyers avoid association with anything harmful, offensive, or inappropriate.


The emotional, financial, and legal cases for a brand safety plan


With the proliferation of digital content and the rise of programmatic advertising, brands face risks that can compromise their reputation, diminish the effectiveness of their ad campaigns, and even lead to legal repercussions. As such, developing a comprehensive brand safety strategy has emerged as a critical component of any advertising initiative, enabling brands to navigate the complex digital ecosystem with confidence and resilience.


Digital audiences consider your brand's integrity, values, and quality in situ.

Appearing alongside inappropriate or controversial content – or even content that's not aligned with your brand's ethos – can quickly tarnish a brand's image and erode consumer trust. By proactively identifying potential risks and implementing measures to avoid them, brands can safeguard their reputation and maintain the trust of their audience.


Ads placed in unsuitable environments are ads wasted.

A brand safety strategy is crucial for maintaining ad effectiveness and maximizing return on investment (ROI). Ads that appear in inappropriate or irrelevant contexts are less likely to resonate with their intended audience and may even be actively ignored or blocked.

The financial stakes are high - advertisers incurred losses of approximately $898 million in 2020 due to placements alongside content considered unsuitable or unsafe (IAB).

By ensuring that ads are placed in environments that align with the brand's values and resonate with its target audience, brands can increase the likelihood of engagement and conversion, ultimately maximizing ROI.


Regulatory compliance is critical.

Finally, in many industries, a brand safety strategy is necessary for legal and regulatory compliance. In many jurisdictions, there are laws and regulations governing the types of content that advertisers can associate their brands with. Failure to adhere to these regulations can result in legal repercussions, including fines and sanctions. By establishing clear brand safety guidelines and protocols, brands can ensure compliance with relevant laws and regulations, mitigating the risk of legal liabilities.



Strategies for Brand Safe Media Placement


Develop Clear Guidelines

Establishing clear brand safety guidelines and protocols serves as a beacon to guide decision-making throughout the ad buying process. By delineating acceptable parameters and delineating red flags, you empower your team to make informed choices that align with your brand's values and objectives.


Utilize Brand Safety Tools

Leverage cutting-edge technology and third-party services that specialize in brand safety solutions. From content verification tools to ad placement monitoring platforms, these tools offer invaluable insights and proactive measures to safeguard your brand's reputation and integrity.


Partner with Trusted Publishers

Forge strategic partnerships with reputable publishers, ad networks, and platforms that prioritize brand safety and adhere to industry best practices. By aligning your brand with trusted partners, you mitigate risks and ensure that your ads are showcased in environments that resonate with your target audience.


Stay Informed and Adapt

The digital advertising landscape is characterized by constant flux and evolution. Stay ahead of the curve by remaining vigilant, staying informed about emerging trends and developments, and adapting your strategies accordingly. By embracing a mindset of continuous learning and adaptation, you position your brand for sustained success in the dynamic realm of digital advertising.


Brand safety is crucial for successful advertising. By grasping its importance, recognizing potential risks, and taking proactive steps, advertisers and media buyers can confidently navigate the digital landscape. Investing in brand safety isn't just a choice – it's essential for building a strong foundation for your brand's future success.


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