Brand safety is, according to the International Advertising Bureau, the practice of making sure brands are safe when advertising online. It helps to keep brands from showing up next to any illegal or inappropriate content, like adult content, fake news, or anything else a brand wouldn’t want to be associated with. Moreover, brand safety is used broadly to refer to any practice that compromises the digital advertising activity within the advertising chain, most specifically fraudulent activity.
Brand safety has been discussed more than ever over the past few years. Advertisers and media buyers are calling for a greater degree of transparency when it comes to where their ads are being shown.
This year, $5.8bn is expected to be wasted due to ad fraud, and lack of transparency from brand safety vendors is somewhat frustrating for publishers.
Ad tech vendors and SSPs need to be especially vigilant to ensure that the inventory they provide is of a high-quality standard. However, there is a need for standardization across multiple vendors and platforms, due to the differences in how brand safety vendors define the various metrics on their platforms.
Why We Need Standardization for Brand Safety
As the media buying process and programmatic advertising become more and more complex, the layering of technologies is making it difficult to achieve alignment among brands or implement standardization protocols.
One key problem is that, due to the myriad of options out there, vendors categorize the various threats to brand safety differently. These categorizations include adult content, gambling, bots, data center traffic, SIVT, and many others. Each vendor has different standards for each of the violations, as well as different algorithms and measurements to determine the fraudulent traffic. They also identify them with different names, further complicating matters. With these differences in measurement and standards for each vendor, come the inherent complexity which begs for standardization.
Ideally, standardization would allow for clearer KPIs for clean and safe traffic across the board. However, with the layering of technologies and the use of multiple vendors, it has become very difficult.
While it’s important that one uses trustworthy brand safety vendors, especially those with accreditation from organizations like the Media Rating Council(MRC), most ad tech vendors need to work with two or three brand safety vendors, because all of their demand-side or supply-side partners will be using multiple as well. This has become necessary for partnerships to work. If two partners are using different brand safety vendors which reflect different statistics and insights, it may cause an irreconcilable strain on their partnership.
The absence of standardization among accredited brand safety vendors raises problems particularly regarding invalid traffic (IVT). Along the entire supply chain, traffic can be flagged as fraudulent or invalid due to the different metrics that vendors use, from both SSP’s and DSP’s.
The lack of transparency for how metrics are calculated makes it difficult for companies along the chain to strategize and plan for IVT, as no two companies measure it the same. This discrepancy can account for millions of wasted dollars a year on false alarms.
Where Do We Go From Here?
Everyone in the ad tech ecosystem, from the publisher to the buyer to the advertiser, has a role to play in the push for the standardization of brand safety. No one part of the chain is to blame, but all can benefit from uniting under a common brand safety language.
This isn’t a problem that can be solved in a year… or even two. And it’s through no fault of any party involved. It’s genuinely hard to map out a single solution for successfully unifying brand safety metrics and standards. For one, getting multiple companies to agree on and adopt the same methods will be a long and arduous undertaking. However, embracing the opportunity for dialogue and communication between SSP’s, DSP’s and brand safety vendors is the first step towards brand safety transparency and unification.