With technology rapidly evolving, we all need to take precautions to stay secure. Although brand safety has always been a high priority for marketers and among digital providers, you may have heard this topic come up more frequently towards the end of last year and into 2017.
What Are Bad Ads?
So what are these “bad ads?” These are ads that violate advertising standards, such as payday loan ads that result in unfavorable loans, “trick to click” ads that often lead to malware downloads, ads for illegal products, “self-clicking” ads that redirect users to unfavorable pages or automatically begin a harmful download, and ads created to intentionally slip through the firewall that stops bad ads. As technology gets more advanced, scammers are investing more time and effort in new ways to trick the fail safe measures blocking the bad ads. Don’t let that scare you though; the good guys are also investing more time and effort into stopping them. All quality ad platforms have several layers of defense in place, in the form of both technology and people, reviewing and removing the bad ads. Companies such as Google, are continually taking measures to combat these ads via removal and blockage. In fact, Google eliminated 1.7 billion bad ads in 2016; this number has more than doubled since 2015!
What are Bad Websites?
Another big concern amongst marketers is having an ad for your company pop up on a site that by association, could potentially tarnish your brand’s reputation. These include adult sites, racist sites, sites containing malware, fraudulent sites, and others that would affect a brand’s image negatively. Does Breitbart immediately come to mind? Breitbart has been raising red flags for some time now due to claims that their website supports racist and anti-semitic views. This is one of the many websites that Mogo, and many other advertisers, have added to a blocked list of sites to prevent our clients’ ads from appearing on the site.
How We Protect Brand Safety
The volume of new domains is growing at a rate of approximately 22 million sites per month. To protect your brand’s safety, we use a pre-bid filtering tool in which we can determine the content of an ad call and avoid sensitive topics that are not aligned with a brand’s image. There are two main approaches to protecting a brand’s image that we like to combine and utilize - content based digital labels and sensitive categories.
Content based brand safety uses technology that crawls publisher sites and assigns a digital content label,
sensitive category label, or both. Think of digital content labels as the rating for television shows. These are high level buckets that are meant to have a broad stroke and follow the same rating system (DL-G, DL-PG, DL-T, DL-MA).
When approaching content based brand safety, we like to utilize sensitive categories and high risk exclusions. Sensitive categories are built and managed by Google whereas high-risk exclusions are managed by Integral Ad Science. IAS is one of the world leaders in brand safety and fraud protection that processes and analyzes media quality metrics 500 billion times every day. Within sensitive categories, we have 16 categories to include or exclude, versus the 4 contained within digital content labels. As an example, we always block the following categories: Derogatory, Downloads & File Sharing, Hate, Racism - among several others.
An important consideration of brand safety is ensuring you are blocking the right categories, but also, not precluding yourself from really strong publisher inventory. For example, if the politics sensitive category was blocked, the campaign would be excluding almost all major news publications. The high risk content is absolutely blocked, but there is also a degree of content that is hard to analyze objectively.
One of the greatest challenges in ensuring brand safety is publisher transparency. When Google is unable to discern a specific site's objective through their inventory and metrics, it is placed in an unknown category. When a publisher is in an unknown category, we are unable to add them to an exclusion list. Moving forward, we will be using a unique white list built by Google only containing sites where publishers allow fully transparent reporting. This will help us to ensure that we are meeting the highest of brand safety standards.
Although bad ads and bad sites are constantly popping up, you won’t need to worry as long as you're working with an advertising partner who is taking the right precautions to protect your brand.