Summit Snapshot ‘18: The Evolution of Brand Safety Issues & Solutions

August 7, 2018

Big Idea: As digital ads expand in reach and influence, brand safety must be part of the consumer trust equation, where consumer privacy, transparency & control online is considered alongside other concerns such as security, fraud, context & viewability.

Over the years, many facets of brand safety have been in the spotlight -- adjacency, privacy, fraud, security, viewability and ad placement, among them. Interest-based advertising, for example, wholly relies on responsible data collection to target and establish connections between sellers and consumers and bolster consumer trust. Thus, such data collection, and the transparency and choice connected to it by way of Digital Advertising Alliance (DAA) Principles adherence, must be part of a brand’s brand safety strategy.


This year’s DAA Summit18 - ADapt! included a panel discussion that focused on the development of brand safety issues within the digital space -- and how businesses might manage these issues -- in the panel, “More Than a Mantra -- Brand Safety and the Digital Ad Supply Chain.”


Dick O’Brien, moderator of the panel and executive vice president of government relations at 4A’s, analyzed brand safety evolution over the past decade. “The first brand safety issue that we probably ran into in the digital space was literally the question of privacy and data,” he said.


Misuse of consumer data would not only anger consumers, but also could provoke government action against liable advertisers and brands, he continued. Such unwanted negative attention might harm a brand’s image.

Photo: Brand Safety Panel Moderator Dick O’Brien, Executive Vice President of Government Relations, 4A’s


The criminal use of data became an additive focus of brand safety, O’Brien reported, and that this included malware, fraud and piracy. “For the second phase, brand safety was all about making the supply chain secure and safe for those advertising on it or those watching the advertising.”


The industry developed self-regulatory organizations and initiatives modeled after the Digital Advertising Alliance, such as the Trustworthy Accountability Group (TAG) to police these types of issues. According to O’Brien, TAG’s efforts, and those of its participants, have reduced incidents of fraud by as much as 83 percent, for example.

Photo: (left to right) Dick O’Brien, Executive Vice President of Government Relations, 4A’s; Audrey Trainor, Director of Ad Notice Solutions, Evidon Crownpeak; Joe Barone, Managing Partner, Brand Safety Americas, GroupM


How Brands Respond


Different tactics help resolve brand safety concerns. O’Brien cited the DAA’s influence to mitigate ongoing issues, with respect to privacy. “The DAA was so successful in reassuring everybody that we were using data responsibly -- both the government regulatory bodies and the public because they click on the icon trillions of times,” he said. “It was the beginning of making secure and safe the digital universe.”


The panel further highlighted transparency, a key DAA principle, as a necessity in facilitating brand safety. Transparency spurs consumer trust in a brand and ensures that everyone collaborates harmoniously to the brand’s vision,” he said.


To enable transparency on the business-to-business side, Audrey Trainor, director of ad notice solutions at Evidon Crownpeak, stressed the significance of open communication between advertisers, agencies, ad tech companies, and publishers.


“Brands want to know where their ads show up,” she said. “Do their partners, publishers, agencies know their theme, their idea of what brand safety actually is? Evidon encourage[s] all partners to maintain that openness and actually talk to the people they work with to make sure that the consumer does trust the brand.”


Brand safety professionals, too, must be transparent when educating brands. This helps the brands make informed decisions about digital advertising.


Joe Barone, managing partner of brand safety - Americas, for GroupM, detailed the significance of risk tolerance and implementing a code of decency. Because every brand is different, companies should advertise on platforms that best match their brand’s ideals. What might be inappropriate for one company could be perfect for another.


“As their agent, [GroupM’s] job is to make sure they’re familiar with potential risks and rewards,” Barone said. By understanding possible consequences, he noted, brands can more effectively control how they utilize their advertising resources to target consumers, and avoid missteps. Companies must exercise the ability to decide how best to advertise in a secure manner that most effectively suits their brands.


Although certain digital platforms engage consumers, there’s often the risk of less control -- particularly with user-generated content. Barone cited Taco Bell’s use of Snapchat filters as an example. The social media app allows users to interact with the brand in a unique way, but not without risk: “It’s wonderful branding for Taco Bell, but they can’t control what the user will do once they’ve made that filter.”


Future of Brand Safety


Several organizations -- both trade associations and self-regulatory organizations and initiatives -- exist to protect both brands and consumers in digital advertising. “It can get to be a little bit of alphabet soup with TAG, the Coalition for Better Ads (CBA), the Media Rating Council, IAB [Interactive Advertising Bureau], DAA,” Barone said, “but if you lay them all out, they all address different ills in the ecosystem.”


For instance, O’Brien acknowledged how associations such as the 4A’s strive to set a code of decency along a risk spectrum to maintain the values which these organizations represent. According to the code of decency, it would be intolerant to situate ads near images or topics related pornography, crime, terrorism and fake news. Consumers might associate the brand with indecent content, which could harm the brand’s reputability.


Photo: (left to right) Audrey Trainor, Director of Ad Notice Solutions, Evidon Crownpeak; Joe Barone, Managing Partner, Brand Safety Americas, GroupM


Between new issues, new organizations and new standards, brand safety constantly evolves. As digital advertising and data usage grows, businesses must grapple with the privacy and reputability concerns that develop alongside it.


Barone gave insight into the mindset of his brand clients moving forward: “They want to know that we have solutions to the issues that they face as their digital investment continues to grow.”  Well said.


The Digital Advertising Alliances acknowledges the editorial assistance of Jamie Monaco in the preparation of this post.


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