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War in Ukraine Marketing Brand Safety

Brand safety jeopardized as the war in Ukraine drives a spike in violent content


By John Glenday, Reporter

September 20, 2022 | 4 min read

Brands are facing elevated risks associated with their video adverts, according to a new Integral Ad Science (IAS) report, which documents a spike in violent content associated with the Ukraine war.

War in Ukraine

Repercussions of the war in Ukraine reverberate far beyond the battlefield

The findings dovetail with the IAS’s mission to protect brands from unsafe content, with France (2.2%) and Germany (1.8%) flagged as the most sketchy jurisdictions for desktop video ads, with the highest levels of brand risk anywhere in the world. Both nations also fared poorly in mobile with elevated risk levels of 3.7% and 4.3% respectively – far higher rates than top-performing Italy, where the brand risk for display ads on desktop and mobile stands at just 0.5% and 1.3% respectively.

Repercussions of the conflict reverberate far beyond the battlefield, with the percentage of violent content doubling from the first half of 2021 to the equivalent period in 2022. Across desktop violence increased from 24.9% to 47.9% for display impressions and 24.3% to 45.6% for video. Highlighting the scale of the issue, the IAS found that pages related to violent content represented more than two out of every five pages posing risk to brands across all environments.

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The current edition of the Media Quality Report bases its assertions on an analysis of billions of ad impressions, surmising that brand risk decreases in lockstep with the adoption of contextual advertising and pre-bid brand safety technologies. The IAS provides just such services, suggesting that a solution is at hand for brands seeking promotion at a time when the airwaves are swamped with stories of brutality, escalating threats and civilian casualties.

Despite this, brand risk as a whole across all forms of digital advertising fell significantly in the first half of 2022 versus a year prior, with overall brand risk put at 2.5% globally, and display and video ads on desktop screens proving to be the safest online spots with an associated 1.6% risk profile. This is significantly less than the equivalent 2.4% figure for mobile web campaigns.

The IAS attributes this progress to the adoption of contextual targeting as a mature alternative to keyword blocking, handing brands the tools they need to skirt dangerous content.

Csaba Szabo, IAS managing director, EMEA, said: “It’s highly significant that brand risk has decreased globally, even under geopolitical upheaval and severe economic challenges. It is a testament to the robustness of context-based and pre-bid brand safety solutions that advertisers employ.”

Other key findings contained in the report include the observation that video ads achieve higher viewability rates (76%+) than display (66%+). Ad fraud also shows no sign of receding, with the volume of fraudulent impressions on the up across all environments.

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