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Brand safety goes beyond advertising: is the industry taking it seriously?

Mar 01, 2018

Leaders from brands, agencies and publishers pushed the brand-safety debate forward at a Campaign-GumGum hosted breakfast…

“Ensure a good customer experience on an individual level. Protect reputation of the bank on a macro level. Get fair return for our investment. These are our three broad objectives – backed by strategies – to ensure we’re delivering the safest experience we can in a world that’s less safe in digital,” said Lou Paskalis, senior vice president, enterprise executive at Bank of America.

The brand safety issue is a major industry concern. The topic underpinned a lively discussion during Mobile World Congress in Barcelona – with Computer Vision company GumGum and Campaign hosting. Marketers, agencies and publishers discussed how the industry can come together to tackle advertising’s growing threat.

‘Brand safety’ is different for everyone

There’s no one-size-fits all description of brand safety according to the varied responses from speakers – so is there a one-size-fits solution?

James Londal, chief data officer at Hearts & Science believes brand safety stems from a larger quality problem: “We want our adverts to appear in the best place. We need to have greater control over where ads appear, regardless of the platform. We need to have a certain standard of quality on the content. Platforms need to ensure the quality level is maintained.”

But appropriateness is a key word that Merkle’s SVP agency of  solutions, Tom Byrne, used: “There are some things that aren’t appropriate in any situation – that shouldn’t be there. What distinguishes brand safety from performance advertising is about relevance within circumstance.

It’s about people’s individual feelings and how they feel, which makes it harder to quantify.”

Rafe Blandford, mobile strategy director at DigitasLBI, added:  “It’s about protecting brand equity. And it’s about protecting relationship with your customer. Brand safety goes beyond advertising.”

Is brand safety taken seriously? 


Brand safety has been a hot talking point in the last two years with global CMOs such as Marc Pritchard and Keith Weed championing a better, more transparent, safer digital ecosystem – but not all brands are focussing on it. Laricea Roman-Halliday, head of digital at The Specialist Works said: “There are some clients who are very concerned about brand safety but some who are ready to compromise to get more reach and volume.”

“We’re trying to be transparent and educate. But the lack of minimum standard makes it incredibly hard. We should be on a mission to push those standards. And we should refuse to work with publishers who refuse to work to those minimum standards.”

Ben Phillips, global head of mobile at MediaCom, added that if advertisers have got a more traditional reach-and-frequency mentality, brand safety isn’t such a priority:  “We’ve had a rough year with ad  fraud, blocking and bots – we’re all looking for standards that we can all work to.”

But some marketers – including Paskalis – are hugely invested in brand safety. Paskalis works closely with publishers and vendors, measuring and rating their performance and taking investment back from the poorest performers. Paskalis explained: “It is a weapon for me to go back to publishers and say, if you want my business – we’re going to deduct based on performance metrics.”

Read the full article in Campaign here.

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