In the past, managing brand safety was easier when agencies primarily purchased premium inventory and contextual sites direct from publishers. As programmatic buying continues to become the product of choice for advertisers, third party technology has become the primary way to protect our advertising from appearing in fraudulent or unsafe environments.

Over the past several weeks, there has been significant news around instances where YouTube was found to be running ads for several large brands next to extremist and offensive content. There has since been widespread backlash, particularly in the UK but it is growing in AU, with a number of clients and even media groups freezing their Google spend temporarily.

As each client has specific requirements and commercial objectives, it is important that we work together to develop bespoke brand safety guidelines for each client on an individual basis. Examples include but are not limited to; avoidance of environments featuring alcohol; avoidance of programming targeting minors and children, avoidance of religious, political, ethical and adult environments.

iProspect have partnered with Integral Ad Science (IAS) to provide third party verification of brand safety and viewability, and is offered on an ‘Opt In’ basis to all our clients. It’s important to fully understand the role of IAS as an additional safety net and the risks involved in opting out, including the limitations of walled garden platforms .

iProspect selected IAS for a variety of reasons, including (but not limited to):

  • ‍The company’s credentials are extremely high, particularly as they relate to brand safety, fraud and viewability
  • The technology is accredited by the Media Rating Council (MRC) which has fraud and brand safety at its core
  • ‍IAS also protects brands against several key content categories of risk: Adult Content, Alcohol Content, Hate Speech, Illegal Downloads, Illegal Drugs, Offensive Language, and Violence. For example, terrorism would be captured under Hate Speech and Violence
  • ‍IAS technology also allows for customization per content category and for each individual campaign. Additional protection is possible such as keywords, geo compliance, custom site lists, and adware.
  • ‍IAS is constantly rating and re-rating URLs and can respond to changes in content within 31 minutes; this has been independently accredited by the MRC.

Understanding The Limitations Of Walled Garden Platforms

Unlike other publishers, YouTube and Facebook currently do not allow third party vendors like IAS and Moat to integrate their technology directly onto YouTube; rather YouTube (and Facebook) pass ‘signals’ through to IAS and Moat to interpret whether the ad is in view or in a brand safe environment however there is no auditing process to check that these signals are in fact accurate.

Also, it is important to note on a brand safety front, all technologies in this space only have the capability to scan the content of the page, not the actual video itself. As such, across all publishers, there is always a risk that advertisers may appear in unsafe video content if the content on the page is not captured by brand safety measures. One way that IAS mitigates this risk, is to analyse in bound and out bound links. That is, if the content is linking (in or out) to unsafe sites, IAS will categorize the content into one of the content risk categories.

Finally, at present, YouTube still does not allow third party firewall blocking technology on the platform. Subsequently, we are completely reliant on YouTube’s brand safety tools and their ability to categorize content as safe or unsafe. With millions of videos being uploaded every minute on YouTube, a reliance on their own technologies and policies is becoming increasingly more insufficient. As a significant spender with both Google and Facebook, iProspect will continue to put pressure on them to allow third party blocking.

iProspect Recommendation

In an effort to improve the total digital eco-system, iProspect recommend working together to create brand safety guidelines and that everyone implement Integral Ad Science tagging across all digital advertising to ensure media is brand safe, fraud free and the ads are viewable.

For this reason, iProspect ensures that all IAS technology and data costs are 100% pass through with no mark-up.

Brand Safety Checklist

  • Educate wider teams & agencies as to the requirements, policies and procedures and risks involved
    – Ensure creative agencies are well versed in risks
    – Encourage your agencies to work with iProspect to deliver creative on or prior to deadline
  • ‍Speak to iProspect about how we can mitigate the risks as much as possible
  • ‍Establish your specific brand safety areas of concern eg: audience restrictions – are there any groups/demographics that must or should not be exposed to the brand/product/message?
  • ‍Work with iProspect to develop bespoke brand safety guidelines
  • Opt-in to third party verification (Integral Ad Science) where applicable
    – Issue appropriate legal letter depending if clients are opted in or out to third party verification
  • Confirm all digital ads are third party ad served and at minimum have 1 x 1 pixel tracking
Iain Addy

Iain is the National Head of Paid Media and Partnerships at iProspect Australia. Iain works closely with key partners to implement market leading strategic media and technology partnerships that deliver a step change to iProspect and the businesses of our clients.