Ensuring Brand Safety Among Unpredictable News Cycles

Published on February 14, 2018
blog, insights

Now, more than ever, brand safety is top of mind for digital marketers. However, because each advertiser has its own definition of “brand safe content,” there isn’t a “one size fits all” strategy for ensuring brand safety. For this reason, marketers and their media buying teams need to be fully aligned on specific brand sensitivities to keep ads from running next to perilous content.
In general, clients don’t pat their programmatic partners on the back for keeping their brands safe, despite it being a massive undertaking to do so. In fact, many clients only bring up brand safety concerns with their media buying teams when issues arise, or when they see news stories detailing brand safety disasters. The cost of a brand safety mishap can be massive for marketers - we’ve seen time and time again, brands caught for mistakenly aligning their ads with inappropriate news topics.
Understandably, running on such content can lead to relationship-damaging conversations between programmatic partners and their clients.  Thus, media buyers need to understand the general inventory landscape, the nuances of brand safety, and the tools needed to protect their clients’ digital campaigns.
Ensuring brand safety in news content categories is challenging, but advertisers cannot afford to avoid these environments entirely.
In 2017, several major brands’ content was found running next to content about extremist groups, hate speech, and other unsavory news topics. Many advertisers reacted to these findings by immediately blocking all news sites from their programmatic campaigns.
This aggressive content blocking tactic becomes problematic when you look at the landscape of available, quality digital inventory. A media buyer has access to hundreds of thousands of domains; however, based on Xaxis analysis, the majority of campaign delivery comes from less than 5% of available domains. Within that 5%, 40% are typically within the news category and considered legitimate news domains.
Given the current state of the programmatic inventory landscape, it’s clear that by blocking all news sites, advertisers will cut down their campaign reach considerably. There are better means by which brands can stay aligned with safe content.
Keyword blocking is a better solution that allows advertisers to stay in premium news environments while avoiding unsafe content.
Instead of omitting an entire inventory category, buyers can leverage keyword technology partners, which go beyond domain-level filtering by analyzing each article's content.  Programmatic Traders create customizable lists of negative targeting keywords for each campaign, ensuring ads do not appear next to such words or phrases. Employing this strategy means that even during unfavorable news coverage cycles, advertisers can safely run on news pages that feature content around Weather, Entertainment, Sports, Travel and Finance.
Overall Xaxis takes a stringent approach to brand safety across all campaign that are managed by our Trading team.  Xaxis Trading executions have a master whitelist and exclude keywords associated with sensational news and other inappropriate topics.  We employ these brand safety measures at scale, while driving client specific outcomes like viewability and other performance KPIs.  As programmatic experts, Xaxis understands that brand safety is constantly evolving and it's important that we stay on top of potential impacts it could have on campaigns.

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