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Keeping brands safe from the swirl of online negativity

Available technology only helps to an extent in deciding where brands ads go

Gulf News

Advertising your brand online has never been in more demand, but the pressure on delivery and performance has steadily increased to a point where now, everything is scrutinised.

The biggest problems lies outside of the clicks, leads and sales — it is content that is now being questioned more than ever. Unfortunately, with so much negativity happening around the world on a daily basis, there is always “bad news” for the media to report on. And this can cause significant challenges for advertisers.

Who wants their real estate ad placed next to an image of a bombed apartment block in Syria? How about a high-performance car ad surrounded by images from a multiple car crash on the highway?

This kind of association can be extremely harmful to brand reputation and integrity. War in other parts of the Middle East has unfortunately become daily news. So, organically there’s a lot out there which can be damming to brands and has to be policed.

The thing is, we’re not doing enough to solve it. Advertisers are very aware of the problems they face when it comes to keeping their brand away from negative content, but it still happens all the time. I see it every day.

I think the advertiser knows exactly what they want and they brief their partners on it, but it’s not being policed well enough. There’s tech out there that provides a damage report showing where the brand has been poorly placed. But what good is that when the damage has already been done?

It’s simply not good enough. There’s been a lot of talk and not a lot of action, and brands are losing out because of it. Whitelists or “walled garden site” lists go some way to appearing in approved environments, but even the most premium of publishers create content that isn’t befitting to certain brands.

It is, however, a first step. Negative keyword lists will also aid in the ad being blocked against content that includes that “negative” word. Not ideal, but again it is a step.

There are a few brands that want reach and performance, wherever it may be, for as cheap as possible. If that’s their need and they understand the consequences, then fair enough.

Most brands however do take action. They understand the pitfalls of being associated with negative content, fraudulent traffic and low viewability. They appoint creative and buying agencies alongside third-party tech to do the work for them.

That’s a problem, as we’ve got all these great people but we’re still not doing enough. Publishers need to vet content, and in some cases their journalistic values. Agencies need to buy their media more cleverly, and technology needs to get better.

There’s no use reporting back to a brand at the end of month on the damage if it has already been done. With so many people in the middle when launching an ad campaign, it’s imperative that the tech adopted is giving you peace of mind.

If you’re paying good money for it, then it should be solving most, if not all, of the problem. Access to real-time data and the ability to block the impression about to be served is absolutely paramount. Technology is very much at the core of solving brand safety issues.

Will safety for brands online continue to be an issue? Definitely. It’s only going to become more important, more convoluted and give more headaches to brand managers everywhere. Digital is already a victim of its own success in many respects, but we risk more scrutiny on the whole digital ad ecosystem if we don’t act now. Most importantly, let’s hope the world changes for the better.

When we do, the news becomes better and with that, everyone wins.

Jamie Atherton is managing director of AdZouk.

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