Brand Safety: Tips for your Business
Poorly placed advertising - i.e. ads in an environment that doesn’t suit your brand or your company - can result in enormous damage to your image. This articles explains what brand safety is all about, how you can ensure it for your or your customers’ brand and what needs to be considered.
Poorly Placed Ads
Digital advertisements can generate a lot of attention - unfortunately sometimes for the wrong reasons. While the banner ad for a burger shop placed next to the video of an animal welfare association usually makes users smile, an advertisement for a first-person shooter game in an article about a school shooting can seem more than strange. In fact, both are probably just cases of the random display of booked advertisements - once via Google Ads and once via the publisher of the online magazine. Both are great examples of cases when brand safety is not applied or not applied sufficiently.
What Does Brand Safety Mean?
Brand safety is when advertising is only shown in environments that fit the brand or the company and don’t damage the company’s image. Exactly what can (and cannot) be harmful to a company or brand is very individual. For example, while the banner ad of a burger joint could easily appear next to an exali YouTube video, it would be more than out of place on the channel of an animal welfare group or vegan influencer.
The bad thing about this is not only the misplaced advertising, but also the fact that users could insinuate an intention on the part of the brand. That’s because anyone who doesn’t deal much with digital advertising usually doesn’t know much about algorithms and other functionalities of Google etc. By the way: Of course, brand safety can also go wrong with print advertisements. The control mechanisms are similar here - as is the potential damage to your brand.
Brand Safety: Excluding Unwanted Content
To prevent your brand’s ad from being placed in an inappropriate context, the first step is to consider what content and platforms you define as inappropriate. You can then summarise these in an exclusion list. You should also check this exclusion list regularly and update it if necessary, because sometimes the orientation and thus also the content of the platforms change.
Websites, blogs, forums and apps with the following content are generally considered non-brand-compliant:
- Illegal drugs and alcohol
- Adware and malware
- Hate speech and propaganda content
- Illegal downloads and copyright infringement
- Depictions of explicit violence
- Political and religious controversies
- Unmoderated user-generated content
- News articles about catastrophes, accidents or the like
In addition to these, there can of course also be other environments for your brand that you consider to be non-brand-compliant. If your business is an online shop for vegan food products, this could for example be content about meat products such as a news article about the opening of a steak restaurant in an online magazine. For a company that produces software, on the other hand, it might be articles about malfunctioning software. As you can already see, what suits (or doesn’t) suit your brand, your service or your company isn’t always easy to define in general terms.
Brand Suitability: Exclusion and Inclusion
Brand suitability sees itself as a further development of brand safety. Because even if exclusion lists are important and correct, there is a risk of so-called overblocking. This means that by excluding and therefore effectively blocking certain platforms and content, you are overly restricting the visibility of your brand, your service or your company. The approach behind brand suitability is therefore not only the exclusion of unwanted content, but also the inclusion of desired content and environments.
You should consider the following things when thinking about brand suitability:
- What values does your company (and therefore your brand) have?
- How do you feel about current events in the news?
- How do you want to present these values to your customers?
- What beliefs do you want to share publicly?
- How can these considerations (values, opinions, representation) be integrated into a media plan?
Creation of Inclusion Lists
Based on the evaluation of these questions, you can then create inclusion lists. There you should list content and topics that fit into the context of your brand, your service or your company and also find similar content based on this. For example, if you want to advertise on YouTube, context means you create an inclusion list of YouTube channels that you think are appropriate for your brand or services.
As with your exclusion list, it is important to regularly check the inclusion list and adjust it if necessary. The reason for this is, on the one hand, that the content on platforms can change and, on the other hand, the performance optimisation of your advertisements. For example, you should look at the performance of the selected channels and either replace or supplement underperforming channels by adding new ones to create a better balance between brand suitability and ad performance.
What Are the Risks of Incorrectly Placed Ads?
The greatest risk for any company and brand is the loss of customer trust. As already mentioned at the beginning, people who don’t deal with topics such as social media, online marketing or SEA usually know little to nothing about how digital channels work. For example, a user who sees an ad for a video game about war in an online article about a real war has a high likelihood of assuming that this placement is intentional. As a result, they may refrain from buying not only that particular video game but even all further games of this gaming brand. With several hundred users, this means a significant loss of income - not to mention the damage to the brand image.
Other examples would be placing your brand next to videos or platforms with political or religious content. Because users could associate your brand or your company with these attitudes - which is especially bad if said attitudes do not correspond to your corporate values. Politics in brand communication is generally a difficult topic that should be approached with care.
Brand Safety and Security for Service Providers
These examples show that in the worst case, ignoring brand safety can result in significant damage to a company or brand’s image. Anyone who creates advertisements as a service provider or agency for customers runs the risk of claims for damages on the part of the client if the brand safety fails due to an error. This might happen, for example, with an uncontrolled or overlooked exclusion or an incorrectly chosen inclusion. Professional Indemnity Insurance is available for precisely such cases.
With exali’s Professional Indemnity Insurance, you’re covered as a service provider or agency in the field of (online) marketing, SEA or social media if you make a mistake with your customers’ advertisements. In the event of a claim, the insurer checks at its own expense whether a claim is justified, pays justified claims and fends off unjustified claims on your behalf.
Daniela has been working in the areas of (online) editing, social media and online marketing since 2008. At exali, she is particularly concerned with the following topics: Risks through digital platforms and social media, cyber dangers for freelancers and IT risk coverage.
In addition to her work as an online editor at exali, she works as a freelance editor and therefore knows the challenges of self-employment from her own experience.