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IAS media quality report shows UK improvements in brand safety and viewability

The latest stats show the UK is ahead of the curve when it comes to brand safety

Brands have been clamoring for ways to mitigate the risk of their ads supporting dangerous or harmful content. At the same time they by necessity are looking to reach as wide an audience as is possible – and consumers are continuing to flock to digital video. The challenge for digital video platforms, then, is to convince brands that their sites offer enough brand safety tools to make it worth their while.

A complicating factor is that many of the more easily-implemented tools, such as keyword blocking, are too broad and blunt a mechanism. That in turn leads to quality video publishers being blacklisted by overzealous brands, and premium audiences being missed as a result.

Research from Integral Ad Science’s Media Quality Report for the first half of 2021 appears to demonstrate that, at the very least, brand safety on digital video in the UK has improved since the concerns were at their height.

Per the research, the UK had the lowest levels of brand risk on desktop video compared to all other markets, having decreased 4.1 percentage points from 5.7% in H1 2020 to 1.6% in H1 2021. That compares favorably to the global average of 3.6%. The UK led global brand risk reduction across video environments – and reportedly achieved even lower rates of brand risk when those ads were bought programmatically.

Meanwhile brand risk on mobile web video also decreased 4.1 percentage points from 6.3% in H1 2020 to 2.2% in H1 2021 versus the global average of 3.6%.

However, the UK audience has less patience for video ads than the global average. Video ads were in view for 18.1 seconds in H1 2021, having decreased from 24.5 in the same period the previous year.

Meanwhile on desktop display, time-in-view of ads in the UK stood at an average of 21.16 seconds, compared to the global average of 22.67 seconds. It wasn’t all good news for the UK, however, as in-app viewability actually fell over the course of the year.

Hate speech and public concern

However, brand risk around hate speech and violent content appears to be on the rise comparatively: hate speech across desktop video increased 13.4 percentage points from 2% to 15.4% in H1 2021. Meanwhile, share of brand risk around adult content across desktop display increased 11.9 percentage points from 6.3% in H1 2020 to 18.2% in H1 2021.

Nick Morley, managing director EMEA at Integral Ad Science, said that the positive improvements are potentially a return to the mean after a period of intense scrutiny surrounding pandemic-related misinformation. “It’s interesting to compare brand safety risks to those of a year ago, when we were all navigating the unforeseen circumstances during the pandemic and a rise in misinformation.

“The distinct reduction in brand risk this year suggests that industry stability is resuming, with confidence increasing toward video ad inventory as the economy recovers.

“The improvement around misinformation reflects the industry’s commitment to supporting high-quality media outlets and publishers. More generally, we believe the move away from a blunt approach to brand suitability toward a nuanced contextual strategy means advertisers won’t inadvertently miss positive opportunities to interact with engaged audiences.”

The full report also demonstrates that the industry is hungry for solutions to coming challenges around contextual targeting. It is seen as both an antidote to the blunt tool of keyword blocking and an opportunity for video platforms to improve ROI for brand advertisers.

As brands are set to invest more than ever into advertising across digital video, the positive results shown by IAS’s report will help boost confidence that the industry is getting to grips with the brand safety issues that have plagued it for years.

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