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Brand Suitability Scaleable Test & Learn

How to maximize 2023 ad budgets: suitability, collaboration and a test & learn approach



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November 16, 2022 | 5 min read

Back in May 2022, industry experts came together to discuss the opportunities and challenges of an evolving landscape at Advertising Week Europe – one of the biggest hybrid learning and networking events of the media and advertising calendar

Almost half a year later, with lots of uncertainty surrounding the economic climate, marketers must find a way to maximize budgets and the effectiveness of their advertising for 2023. Now’s the time to revisit the key takeaways from the event, and put some of the tips into action in order to navigate the competitive landscape ahead.

Can suitability and scale co-exist?

In order to make the best use of 2023 budgets, brands need to find a balance between scale and suitability. And, in a digital world, where platforms are able to reach huge global audiences, scale is at the fingertips of every brand. But, back in May, a panel session on the Tech Lab Stage raised the question: how can businesses manage the seemingly mutually exclusive concepts of safety and scale?

With the creation of new social platforms, the proliferation of content, and the rate of content consumption, chair Emma Lacey, SVP EMEA at Zefr, pointed out that the definition of brand safety today is a lot more nuanced. The global pandemic, elections, wars, and strong social movements have all dominated the media in the last two years – making decisions around what to advertise alongside infinitely more complex.

Within this context, brands have had to navigate the minefield of “looking after their brand integrity and values while still capitalizing on scaled audiences”, as Lacey put it, while questioning “what’s true, what’s legitimate, what’s harmful, what’s safe.” This will remain true throughout the end of the year and into the next. As budgets are squeezed, brands will not want to waste advertising spend next to content that is harmful to the brand, or simply doesn’t reach their intended audiences.

Suitability over safety equals more scale

Chrisa Chatzisavva, partner and head of social at Mindshare, talked about how brands today must focus on a brand suitability approach as opposed to a brand safety approach. “Brand suitability,” Chatzisavva explained, “takes into account cultural nuances and brand values, which gives a much more customized approach when it comes to media delivery.”

It was clear then, and still now, that the industry requires an overhaul; one that calls for more precision, and recognizes the realities of today’s media landscape. And brand suitability technology offers a solution for this.

Collaborative technologies and a collective framework

More sophisticated methodologies already exist – they just need to gain traction. Experimenting with a combination of mature technologies that meet the criteria of scale and suitability, and “testing by platform in controlled environments” – as suggested by M&S Media strategy manager Katy Allison – allows brands to see how they can scale their activities without too much risk.

Some initiatives have already been developed. Of note here is the Global Alliance for Responsible Media (GARM)’s charter on brand safety, a framework determining categorized risk levels. “Prior to 2019, there was no single standard definition of brand safety. Everyone was really working in isolation,” said Bahar Bozdogan, product marketing lead, core ads at TikTok, “and having that consistency allows [brands] to explore different, emerging ad formats.”

Adhering to these set standards, clarified Bozdogan, not only allows brands to make better decisions when it comes to content categories – dissolving silos – it also permits flexibility in a controlled environment. This sort of flexibility could be the difference between one brand and another when it comes to winning the attention of 2023 consumers in the crowded landscape.

Other solutions involve closer collaboration between industry players, such as individual brands and social platforms, as proposed by M&S’s Allison, or creators and brands; an option Bozdogan recommended. Since misinformation remains a very nuanced and continuously evolving challenge, Chatzisavva highlighted that working with tech partners to find the right tools for your brand was an empowering way forward. This will be particularly critical for brands in 2023 to ensure quality and legitimate sources are being funded and to filter out the ‘noise’ in the advertising landscape created by unreliable sources.

Brands that are more aware of what their ads are aligned with are more likely to be perceived better by consumers, which could be the deciding factor when brands are fighting for customers in the economic downturn. Research conducted by Zefr and Forrester Consulting revealed that ‘improved customer satisfaction’ was the top benefit (at 57%) that brands expected to see as a result of an improved video placement strategy.

2023 - The year of test and learn

The industry as a whole needs what Chatzisavva called a “test and learn” mindset, where actors acknowledge that “even the experts are all constantly learning”. This is why measurement and constant reviews are necessary to track performance, updating and developing practices with new information: what was blocked that shouldn’t have been blocked? Where do we need flexibility, and where do we need to take more care?

After all, where user behavior is constantly on the move, strategies and concepts need to keep up.

Brand Suitability Scaleable Test & Learn


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