Oracle Advertising and CX

We give marketers the data and tools needed for every stage of the marketing journey, from audience planning to pre-bid brand safety, contextual relevance, viewability confirmation, fraud protection, and ROI measurement.


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Brand safety and context in advertising have evolved - here’s how

March 5, 2021

By Mike Williams, Oracle Advertising, manager, client partnerships

Brand safety in digital advertising has experienced an accelerated evolution due to the global events of 2020. Standard brand safety avoidance tactics are still relevant, but the conversation today is about employing nuance by creating brand profiles to actively identify safe and relevant environments. Here, we cover the shift and why it’s so important for marketers to ensure they’re up-to-speed on the latest tools for their campaigns.

Then and now

It’s all about nuance

The main problem with blocklisting keywords is that it doesn’t take context into account. A single word can have various definitions and interpretations based on the broader story being written.

For instance, the word “shot” can also be used in suitable contexts, such as healthcare, sports, ambition, or photography.

Keyword blocklists’ heavy hand

Diving into our context-based insights, we discovered some unsettling trends related to content surrounding the coronavirus.

  • 3 percent of all online content mentions coronavirus or COVID-19
  • 76 percent of coronavirus content is considered safe
  • 1 in 4 coronavirus-related articles safe for ads are being hit by keyword blocklists

The difference in action

Brand suitability is powered by contextual intelligence, which involves analyzing content beyond URLs and keywords to determine the relationship between terms and phrases, and the broader meaning they depict.

For instance, an article with a headline like, “’You’re a magician!’ Cancer survivor is thrilled with Ambush Makeover,” could be suppressed by a keyword blocklist because of the words “cancer” and “ambush.” On the other hand, contextual intelligence technology scans the entire page to uncover and account for the underlying meaning. Blocking a word like “ambush” every time could result in up to 32 percent of lost impressions – a major missed opportunity.

What’s Contextual Intelligence?

It’s technology that enables advertisers and publishers to connect with desired environments, maximizing protection and driving connections with relevant audiences. Here’s a timeline that shows how it’s evolved by decade:

  • 1990s – Domain level
    Contextual targeting was only available at the domain level using broad, predetermined keywords.
  • 2000s – Content level
    Advancements enabled analysis of individual pages, driving more accuracy.
  • 2010s – Beyond content
    Contextual advertising expanded beyond text-based into context around human and viewable categorization.
  • 2020s – New frontiers
    Context now has the ability to understand a comprehensive picture including video, image, audio, and page quality.

Why context is more relevant than ever and the path forward

There are several regulatory measures and industry shifts that make context an imperative rather than an option:

  • Move toward first-party data strategies
  • GDPR, CCPA, and evolving consumer-centric regulations
  • Adoption of ad-blocking technologies
  • Highly volatile news environments

Through custom brand safety and page-level targeting, accurately avoid specific brand risks without missing out on opportunities. As your approach becomes more sophisticated, here's how to think about brand safety and contextual targeting:

  • Step 1: Standard protection, including blocklist/allowlist keyword tracking
  • Step 2: Baseline protection, including viewability, IVT, brand safety
  • Step 3: Brand suitability, including custom brand safety, curated segments, and custom targeting
  • Step 4: Intelligent context, including the next generation and next evolution of this technology

Check out the infographic below, and learn more about Contextual Intelligence, including brand safety and suitability.


brand safety
contextual targeting