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Brand Suitability GARM Transparency

Marketers know the benefits of video – what’s stopping them from using it?



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June 17, 2022 | 7 min read

Video is one of the key drivers behind advertising growth

As soaring audience viewing seized industry interest in 2021, platforms saw an investment spike that sent global ad spend on the highest incline in four decades: reaching an estimated £644bn. Buoyed by this rise, marketers continue to make even bigger forward looking plans, with digital video due to gain 19.7% uplift and over 60% of marketers boosting YouTube budgets in the year ahead.

There is, however, a chance campaigns may fail to deliver expected strong returns as brand safety issues persist. Despite increasing recognition of the need to focus on assessing both suitability and safety, recent Forrester research shows marketing decision-makers across the UK and US still struggle to deliver ads in secure environments while optimizing opportunities.

The findings underline that striving to play maximum defense is driving consistently restrictive strategies. But responses also highlight an encouraging willingness to evolve that could help marketers better tap the power of video if they put knowledge and tools into action.

The stalled state of brand suitability

Brand suitability methods are stuck in a rut at multiple levels. Analysis reveals the majority of marketers prioritize the tight grip offered by legacy techniques, with nearly half (44%) using keyword blocking, while 36% are applying exclusion and inclusion lists. Although driven by an understandable urge to curb any possible risk, continued sole reliance on these inflexible options is reducing advertising reach — and failing to keep processes updated isn’t helping either.

In addition to running within narrow parameters, security strategies typically follow routine procedures. Most marketers (46%) review tactics just once a year or never at all; a set-it-and-forget-it approach that’s concerningly lax and precarious. Not only is video campaign scope often impacted by redundant limits for unsafe terms and topics, but there is also a high probability that ads will be exposed to new risks as the media landscape constantly shifts and new trends arise.

What’s standing in the way of progress?

So far, industry discussion has largely revolved around the issues outdated and blunt defenses bring for media sellers, especially minority publishers. But appreciation of equally negative buy-side effects is growing. Marketers are aware low-performing suitability efforts increase the likelihood of eroded customer trust, damage to brand reputation, and revenue; cited by 46%, 37% and 27% respectively. All of which begs a vital question: why the stalemate?

The short answer is that many continue to grapple with known problems. Where marketers have a distinct idea of the obstacles hampering progress, figuring out how to overcome them hasn’t necessarily been easy.

Almost two-fifths (37%), for instance, feel held back by the lack of a common language. Varied and interchangeable use of fundamental terms — including brand safety and suitability — is sparking confusion about their meaning, relation to each other, and impact on performance; with mismatched definitions and categorization impeding decision-making as marketers try to manage their video ad activity across different platforms, channels, and agencies.

This difficulty is only being compounded by disparate methodologies. For 34% of marketers, inconsistent suitability frameworks are a major cause of discrepancies in campaign delivery; including poor alignment between what vendors and publishers deem suitable and individual brand preferences for acceptable content tone, subject matter, and creator conduct.

Finally, the technology supporting suitability implementation simply isn’t up to scratch. Over one in three (37%) marketers think tools are missing critical functionalities and nearly as many believe this leads to insufficient insight and ad misfires. Given use of keyword blocking and manual inclusion lists based on broad platform labels, this isn’t all that surprising: neither provide the deep contextual detail needed to understand video, or its sentiment, and both raise the risk of achieving basic safety while writing-off large swathes of suitable media. In fact, 34% of marketers acknowledge legacy tech doesn’t meet the needs of today’s platforms.

Removing the blockers to video evolution

Marketers ultimately hold responsibility for efficiently engaging target audiences and making the best media choices for their brand. The onus for addressing barriers to effective suitability management therefore chiefly lies with them. Among the most obvious immediate steps is increasing the frequency of system audits to ensure gaps are quickly spotted and plugged; and as 46% of marketers already recognise, new tools will form a key part of that.

In particular, switching from crude tactics to nuanced, smarter tech is set to be essential for not only streamlining inventory assessment, but also enabling several critical changes:

1.) Building bespoke video strategies

As marketers accept that blanket measures don’t work across all channels, attention is turning towards greater tailoring, with 57% looking to build video-specific strategies. Leveraging sophisticated capabilities will place them in a better position to decrease risk and access valuable media, as well as accommodating the nature of video content.

Thanks to advances in semantic analysis, they can now run assessment that goes beyond standard text analysis: using algorithms trained on cognitive artificial intelligence (AI) to determine context and sentiment, on a case-by-case basis. Harnessed in tandem with unique suitability classifications from the Global Alliance for Responsible Media (GARM), these tools allow marketers to apply their own thresholds at scale and achieve persistently relevant, safe, and appropriate video matches.

2.) Increasing analytical transparency

Transparency is also an integral requirement for sharper evaluation and security, named as vital for improving video placements by 52% of marketers. Once again, granular analysis will create multiple benefits; delivering refined, real-time insights that drive informed judgement calls on whether videos are the right tonal, contextual, and quality fit. Importantly, embracing options with pre-bid filtering will provide this clarity — before ads are served.

In addition to this, more than seven in 10 (72%) point to third-party post-campaign verification as the top tool at their disposal, ranking it above first-party solutions and pre-bid measures. This shows that brands are looking for transparency from start to finish, both pre-bid and post-bid, to ensure safeguards are working efficiently once campaigns and budgets are spent. The ability to analyse the data and optimize for future campaigns is becoming increasingly important with the growing interest in more complex mediums and platforms.

3.) Raising awareness of universal suitability definitions

Although upgrading tools will significantly alleviate ongoing issues, tech must also work with other initiatives to fuel long-term success, such as a consistent taxonomy. Paramount for 46% of marketers, shared definitions and metrics will drastically cut complexity by fueling unified, repeatable evaluation. What’s more, opportunities exist for markets to begin developing synchronized methodologies now: including the 11 sensitive topic categories and aggregated measurement reports offered by GARM.

Digital media has long been far too diverse, fragmented, and fast-moving for one-size-fits-all techniques. But as sights are fixed on harnessing escalated video engagement and allocating more spend to rapidly expanding platforms, marketers must get to work resolving lingering challenges. Acutely conscious that sticking with the outmoded tactics they know is stopping much-needed evolution, marketers have the understanding and means to start building a more robust, dynamic, and consistent toolkit. Or in short: the solution for unlocking video’s power is in the hands of marketers and awaiting activation.

Brand Suitability GARM Transparency


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