To build brand love you need brand safety

Over the past few months of lockdown, audiences have been forming new consumption habits.

As advertisers adapt to the changes, a new report from GroupM reminds marketers and advertisers to remember brand safety.

We examine the report and also talk to SCA CEO Grant Blackley about brand safety.

A brand safe environment is “critical for all advertisers,” according to Blackley.

This is because the overall effectiveness of the campaign is not just impacted by the creative and messaging – it is also highly dependent on the media activity appearing in the right environments, that are contextually relevant and guaranteed to deliver the right target audience. A brand safe environment also adds to the long term relevancy of the brand and its hard earned reputation.”

Blackley acknowledges that a media environment that is brand safe at all times is almost impossible to guarantee, but “independently regulated environments with accepted codes of conduct, along with self- regulated practices by publishers, can together mitigate the likelihood of brands finding themselves in compromising and unsafe environments.”  

The Group M report offers new category-specific recommendations for marketers on the future of brand safety. It says ads that make quality impressions are ones that are heard and seen “by real humans within the target audience, served in a safe, suitable and fraud-free environment.”

Group M is a major player in industry initiatives to enhance the integrity of digital advertising worldwide. Most marketers have, up until now, worried about brand safety risk in relation to programmatic and social. Now, “with established media digitizing and reinventing themselves,” brand safety practices are appearing across new avenues. “Combined, these factors yield new challenges for established media,” says the report, which examines Audio, Connected TV, Digital Out-of-Home, Location Data and Gaming.

Issues to think about include:

AUDIO is growing as streaming music and podcasts become further entrenched in consumers’ lives, says the report. “Currently, advertiser controls are in their nascence, and brand suitability/adjacency remains a concern, particularly in the world of podcasts, where content standards remain loose across the board.”

FAKE NEWS, and technologies that create deepfake videos are growing more sophisticated and threaten to further erode institutional trust, says the report. “Brands must be more proactive than ever in preserving their core assets and demand transparency in all transactions.”

THE COVID-19 PANDEMIC has established a new normal, digital first lifestyle for the majority of the global population. “Consumption habits have changed (more news, gaming and streaming content). Where consumers go, advertising follows and, with it, new opportunities to strengthen brand safety measures arise. Aggressive keyword avoidance demonetizes online news as the audiences increase and at a time when the public needs reliable information. Local news faces an existential crisis.”

POLICY SHIFTS such as GDPR and CCPA are affecting the way old measurement methodologies such as third-party cookies are used, with the report pointing out that this will give the media industry “an opportunity to collectively create better standards.”

The report also points out that Connected TVs may not be a brand safe environment, with inconsistent parental restriction functionality and lack of transparency about viewership potentially compromising the brand safe environment of hybrid internet enabled televisions. Likewise, dynamic digital outdoor advertising also raises new brand safety questions about adjacent content displayed on these screens, and so do advertisements on gaming platforms. Other issues include privacy considerations relating to location data and audio assistants eavesdropping on conversations. But the report also warns marketers against being too cautious, and advises them to ask questions to establish the safety of the platforms they are using.

Asked for instances of where advertisers may not have a brand safe environment, Blackley says the most prevalent examples are where ads are placed around live news content or, importantly, social feeds where the story brings negative context to the ad by ignorant association, for example, car brand ads all around a fatality road crash.

How do SCA’s audio channels handle this on the various platforms: broadcast radio, live streams, catch up shows and PodcastOne podcasts?

“Live Broadcast Audio is subject to standards and codes of conduct governing the content that is acceptable for brand safety and the community.  This extends into Live Radio Streaming & Radio Podcasts making them equally brand safe and far more regulated than most digital advertising platforms, meaning these can be considered 100% Premium & Brand Safe for an advertiser. 

“Unlike all other digital platforms, the linear and non-visual nature of audio also means that advertisers never display beside any content, UGC or otherwise, which is incredibly rare these days.  Advertisers are incredibly conscious of UGC comments on blogs, social media and video channels and take meticulous lengths in planning to avoid these environments.  The same can be said about content recommendations on articles or video channels that are programmed by algorithms and have minimal brand safety controls.
“Audio creates a premium advertising space for a listener that only ever serves one message at a time in an intimate 1:1 environment.  SCA self regulates by extending these codes and principles into PodcastOne, as the content is produced in-house or specifically licenced/curated to fit within the brand safe values.”

With so many changes happening at this time, such the phasing out of third party tracking cookies, the Group M report says “the deprecation of third-party cookies is an opportunity for the industry to forge a new and more collaborative privacy-enabled future. To do that, the industry must find a new way to steer the right advertising to the right people, moving away from existing identifiers and creating new, privacy-friendly ways to advertise.” Radio companies are already way ahead in this area for their audio content, but will need to review all their associated website and social channels in light of changing regulations and audience/advertiser expectations.

Blackley says there are new technologies in various stages of testing to provide further brand safety assurance and ad consumption verification, such as ‘audibility’ and ‘audibility rate.’ SCA is currently in discussions with a vendor regarding a proof of concept for inappropriate adjacencies. 

“There are also some discussions of providing brand safety guarantees in spoken word podcasts, whereby technology can scan the transcript of the audio, searching for keywords/phrases etc that do not meet certain brand safety measures.  This is already used in display to prevent problems for programmatic advertisers, for example, preventing airline ads from appearing on a news article about a plane crash.  This is being tested and developed for audio to provide the same level of assurance to our advertisers.”

The GroupM report concludes that brand safety basics must remain, but that brands must not focus solely on protecting themselves; rather, they must seize this moment as an opportunity to form more valuable connections with people.

With consumers becoming more aware of their privacy rights and more suspicious of ‘creepy’ marketing tactics that target their habits, and new regulations reflecting higher expectations of advertisers, these are important issues for advertisers to consider and for media companies to adapt to as the evolution of delivery platforms continues.




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