Brand Safety, the most misleading proxy for quality that an advertiser can use.

This post is our takeaways from this AdExchanger article.

Brand Safety Is Not Synonymous With Quality.

“I find brand safety one of the most baffling contradictions of our industry. It often represents the exact opposite situation in which any quality media owner should want to put itself, and it is the most misleading proxy for quality that an advertiser can use.

As programmatic RTB grew, quantity gained priority over quality, and everybody fell into the trap. Advertisers pursued a delusional quest for unlimited scale, blinded by the illusion of a perfect cross-device, cross-domain view of the user. Quality media brands dangerously allowed themselves to be thrown into a big bucket with almost every type of inventory, ranging from fake to garbage on up to the top of the premium content pyramid: their own.”

A “lifecycle of rubbish”

“As a result, marketers saw their ads run on sites and apps that, at worst, promoted hate speech, terrorism, pedophilia, violence and even harmed the users’ devices, and, at best, alongside very low-quality content and environments with horrible UX.

When these problems surfaced, advertisers should have demanded that the programmatic platforms remove the rubbish at the source, which could have fixed the roots of the issue (but it also would have threatened the potential revenue for ad tech and agencies and the illusion of scale). Instead, advertisers barked without biting and deployed systems to filter out as much of that rubbish as possible, adding further costs to the system.

This created a “lifecycle of rubbish,” flowing in and out by design.”

The obsession with brand safety is taken to an extreme, while advertisers willingly join an environment plagued by the worst possible problems in marketing and advertising.

“One could think that the introduction of brand safety tools was the point where premium media owners finally won, with their quality inventory highlighted, protected and made available to premium brands. This is where the painful path took a slightly different twist instead.

In addition to the sites or apps that no respectable business would want to be associated with, advertisers started to include in their blacklists terms and topics predominantly focused on current facts and news, such as Trump, Brexit or #MeToo. This practice also existed for decades in print but with a much more reasonable and balanced approach.

These topics are part of perfectly safe and balanced pieces of content when belonging to quality media environments, but in this “brand safety” era they are all to be carefully avoided.

Programmatic RTB triggered a brand safety paranoia, but it’s a paradox: The obsession with brand safety is taken to an extreme, while advertisers willingly join an environment plagued by the worst possible problems in marketing and advertising.

The result is ads from some of the top advertisers often being displayed, by exclusion, on “safe content” like silly polls, competitions or otherwise bland content of little quality and engagement. At the same time, quality media owners complain that a good amount of premium content is automatically filtered out by brand safety algorithms, affecting their revenue.”

A great opportunity for visionary advertisers and media owners.

“There is a great opportunity for visionary advertisers and media owners who understand that infinite scale is not only impossible but even counterproductive. There would be enough reach in a media environment that is high quality, walled garden-like, brand safe by nature and user-centric – separate from the programmatic open marketplace and complementary to Google and Facebook.

The industry’s marketing and advertising pitches constantly cite the customer experience at the forefront of their promises, but let’s stop fooling ourselves, our clients and our partners.”

More than Brand Safety, Brand Consistency.

Brand Consistency > Brand Safety + Brand Suitability

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Published by

Freddy Mini

CEO & Co-founder