Brand safety, digital ad fraud and viewability continue to challenge digital marketers. The stakes are high as advertisers demand clarity in the content and quality of the online platforms they invest in.

With the wrong ad placement, brand identity can take a hit. You need advertising that’s brand-safe and it’s up to you to protect your brand.

Embrace Artificial Intelligence

Internet giants are tapping technologies such as A.I., deep learning and computer vision to avoid ad misplacements next to inappropriate or disturbing content. These technologies can help a travel site or an airline brand avoid having ads next to news about a cruise-ship disaster or an aeroplane crash.

The new advancements powered by A.I. are the ad industry’s trump card to help solve its big brand safety crisis. The same technology that enables major e-commerce players to recommend visually similar products to online shoppers can be used to identify and avoid websites and content that brands and consumers deem inappropriate for advertisements.

Earlier this year, Google unveiled a new ad unit for AdSense that uses machine learning via its “Auto Ads” that automatically reads a page to instantly detect and place ads that might be most appropriate to place there. Google says that publishers can earn up to 10 per cent more by using its Auto Ads. According to the latest figures from, there are now nearly 13 million active websites using Google AdSense.

Furthermore, brands should encourage agencies to use more advanced A.I.-based brand safety technologies, such as semantic analysis and natural language processing. These tools read web content at URL level, precisely identifying its context like a human would and thereby reduce the risk of ad misplacement.

The usage of news filters that automatically block news containing specific non-brand safe keywords both in URL addresses and in the content would be helpful for companies that don’t want to be associated with specific content. For example, automotive brands avoiding placements next to news about car crashes or articles about alcohol.

Adopt the whitelist + blacklist approach

Adopting a whitelist approach is perhaps one of the safest options to increased brand safety, in the short term at least as online platforms battle to restore trust and improve detection tools to spot radical content. However, using only a whitelist might not be a good option in the long run.

Instead using a combination of blacklists and whitelists is the most flexible solution for each brand’s unique parameters, as a blacklist allows brands to block their ads from specific, chosen URLs. This provided the ability to understand unstructured data and analyse content on web pages before placing ads there.

It then prevents the ads from being displayed through offensive — content blocking and provides a combination of robust security to prevent ad placements in unsafe environments.

In conclusion, being brand safe is critical in online advertising. Ensuring an ad is seen by a real human is most important. But once that ad is seen, the consumer must draw a positive conclusion about the brand.

That is the purpose of advertising, and it is lost when a brand is placed alongside damaging content. Hence, learning how to take control of your advertising environment is essential and that’s why advertisers need to double down on their efforts to eliminate their presence on such sites and minimise the consequences that come with it.

Tomasz Wnuk is General Manager, Middle East and Africa at RTB House.