Brand Safety and Contextual Advertising: 4 Key Considerations

Back to Blog - by The Digilant Team

Right or wrong, we tend to judge people by the company they keep. Remaining skeptical allows us to put our trust and support into people, products, and brands that best fit our standards. Digital advertising efforts experience the same treatment — consumers judge brands, whether knowingly or not, by the content they surround themselves with. That’s why, as a business, it’s so critical to make sure you protect your brand’s safety online by updating your contextual targeting strategies.

What is contextual targeting? It’s the placement of your advertisement next to material that correlates to your product or service, therefore, increasing the likelihood to be seen by the audience you’re trying to attract. For instance, if you’re selling to new parents, you would want your ad to be placed next to an article written for first-time moms and dads. This solidifies your advertising strategy and helps consumers stay aware of your brand’s message.

Contextual targeting in digital marketing works well — most of the time. When it doesn’t, it tends to backfire spectacularly. Case in point: In 2017, a raft of giant brands left YouTube because their ads appeared next to extremist, inflammatory videos. Two years later, the problem recurred. In response, Google unveiled enhanced contextual advertising in 2020. However, the enhancement isn’t perfect. Plus, Google doesn’t control all the sites where brands advertise.

So how can you protect your brand online when investing in digital advertising? The answer is to prioritize brand safety. Remember that 80% of American consumers say that seeing a brand’s ad next to harmful online content would sway their brand sentiment and purchasing behaviors. Accordingly, you need to make sure that you’re doing all you can to construct a brand-safe environment when advertising online. And that means making sure that your brand’s content never appears next to unsafe, insensitive, compromising, or otherwise unwelcome and unwanted material with next-gen contextual advertising solutions.

Contextual Advertising Vigilance Promotes Brand Safety

It’s not enough to let publishing sites set contextual advertising guidelines. To get the biggest impact and benefits of contextual advertising, you must play an active role in keeping your brand reputation safe online. When you do, you can gain several advantages, starting with a positive brand sentiment.

Consumers quickly turn on brands that appear in risky environments. Conversely, they embrace brands surrounded by positive, relevant information. This naturally leads to higher levels of engagement because consumers are more apt to stay engaged in brand-safe environments. That means a stronger chance of a robust ROI from your advertising campaign.

Below are four key considerations to ensure your contextual advertising investments are brand-safe and impactful.

1. Craft your own “brand safety” definition.

It’s hard to engage in brand-safe advertising if you don’t have any rules to follow. As such, your organization must outline a definition together and build a framework to set brand safety parameters that everyone can agree on.

A good starting point is to check out industry-standard definitions of what online content is generally deemed unsafe or riskier. You can also use existing definitions as a springboard and adjust your business rules accordingly. What’s important is that the guidelines are in place to help your advertising campaign stay on track.

2. Build a map of blocklist sites.

Blocklists are sites where you don’t want your ads to run. A blocklist is sometimes referred to as negative targeting, blocklist, or exclusion list. No matter what you call it, you need to have a running, evolving document that contains your blocklisted sites. When you do, you can easily exclude any topic, content, or specific website you’d rather not have your brand associated with.

Fortunately, you don’t necessarily have to build your blocklist from scratch. Your strategic programmatic partner should be able to share a list of sites they block for all their campaigns. Their list can serve as the foundation for a more customized one to better fit your specific brand goals.

3. Find a programmatic partner that puts brand safety first.

Ensuring your brand remains brand-safe is tough if your programmatic partner doesn’t emphasize brand safety. At Digilant, our three-prong brand safety strategy is designed to combat most brands’ online advertising concerns.

How does our safety strategy work? First, our system crawls all web traffic received and classifies it to determine the safety of content based on brand-safe whitelists and Deal IDs. Next, we analyze data for patterns to identify fraudulent traffic sources and botnet locations. Finally, we negatively target impressions with insufficient data to better measure accessibility. These measures work time and again to keep our partners’ brands clean.

4. Monitor your campaigns.

When you advertise on digital channels, you can monitor results in real-time. You can monitor brand safety at the same time. Then, if you spot an issue, you can quickly change or adjust the settings of your campaign. A keen eye also will enable you to catch potential bot traffic or fraud detection.

If you notice that you’re having a lot of hits or your brand safety concerns extend way beyond industry standards, consider buying premium ads. Premium ad buys give you access to specific, pre-approved site lists that ensure your content is only shown on those pages. You’ll still want to monitor your campaigns, but you’ll be less likely to find your brand advertised alongside unacceptable content.

Unsafe online environments pose huge risks for advertisers. At Digilant, we can help you mitigate this risk. Contact us here to learn more about finding a better contextual advertising solution for your business and top-notch brand safety practices.

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