Brand safety for sustainable societies: the end goal

YouTube has been at the heart of the brand safety issues experienced by advertisers

Concerns marketers hold over the reputational risks to their brands in digital media and the challenges societies face as people use digital platforms for criminal and disruptive behaviours are two sides of the same coin. Being brand safe should mean much more than delivering ads in contextually brand-safe, viewable and fraud-free environments. The way a company advertises its brands is increasingly considered a reflection of company values. This is why brand safety should be part of the broader corporate social responsibility strategy aimed at mitigating any negative impact of the company’s operations on society and the environment as it builds more sustainable brands.

Here is why:

1. Brand safety challenges are often intertwined with some of the largest social issues.

Advertising has always mirrored the greatest social challenges. Fake news, divisive content or hate speech are only some of many issues pestering the digital society today. Brand safety processes and protective measures can be tools to address and take a clear stance on issues. By not supporting websites which engage in dissemination of fake news, by avoiding advertising misplacement on terrorist videos, by clinically blocking ads from pages, apps or videos which cause racial tensions or strengthen ideological divisions, the advertising industry can do its part to create better societies.

2. Being on the right side of history.

Via their ad investment decisions, advertisers can assume a larger role in our fast-evolving societies that are shaped by technology and moulded by increasingly socially aware consumers. Brands and the industry are as sustainable as societies they are founded in and whose values they uphold. The study conducted by MediaCom’s Social Change Hub revealed that half of respondents were willing to pay more for a brand that supports a cause, while 63% of people believed that brands have a responsibility to give back to society.

Brands can make a difference by investing their advertising with trusted media and news sources who underpin social plurality or inclusivity.

At GroupM, we favour direct partnerships with publishers offering quality inventory and advise clients to invest in safe environments, not only for the safety of their brands, but also to help our societies.

3. It is an opportunity for the advertising industry to take a stand.

Our industry’s reputation has been tainted, not only by poor placements of brands adjacent to worrying content, but also by the way in which some players have handled consumers’ personal data. By thinking collectively in a more socially responsible manner, we can turn the tide.

4. Going back to proper brand building.

All of this could result in making advertising more brilliant and impactful for all the right reasons. Brand building is all about long-term investment. Brand safe impressions may be more expensive, but not as much as a potential loss of brand reputation by contributing to negative social influences. And, is there a better way to build a lasting relationship with consumers than to reach them through trusted partners, while being mindful of their experience and supporting the right societal causes?

Implementing a brand safe, quality first approach should be the industry norm. Brand safety then becomes much bigger than a tactical business objective, it becomes a value and a way of doing business responsibly.

To support this, the entire industry must adopt this approach and vigorously operationalise it by implementing robust third part verification, by default, and working more collaboratively.

At GroupM, we’re proud to have partnered with industry groups and vendors to usher more brand safe environments.

Our true north is simple. We believe advertisers should only invest in advertising which is viewable by a human, served in an appropriate editorial environment, validated by independent industry certification and third party verification, and offered by partners who are mindful of consumer experience and privacy.

Adopting brand safety, a key plank in corporate social responsibility is the most sensible thing to do today - for more sustainable brands and future growth.

Stevan Randjelovic is the EMEA brand safety manager for Group M.

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