Commentary

Brand Safety: A 'Yes Or No' Question, Or More Complex?

In the programmatic marketplace, one topic that always leads to a good conversation is brand safety. What makes something brand safe? Who decides whether or not it qualifies? Will there ever be a point in time where almost everyone is at ease with the topic?

I spoke with Matt Sauls, director of business development at SiteScout, earlier this week about a case study SiteScout released about Funbox and "delivering the right ads to the right person on the right Website." The most interesting part of the conversation was when Sauls said that brand safety does not have a one-size-fits-all solution.

"'Brand safe' is not 1 or 0 value," he said. "It's basically a set of cautions and approaches to buying media to make sure you are placing your brand next to content that [will have a] positive impact." The fact that different advertisers will find different things important in their quest for brand safety only strengthens this point. 

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At the same time, I would argue that the bottom line of the brand safety question does have a simple yes or no answer, but it depends who you are. Speaking about platforms or publishers, Sauls is right in saying that there is no one-size-fits-all solution. (And, to be clear, that's what he was speaking about). But brands are concerned about brand safety as well (duh), and for them, the answer is a simple yes or no.

The complex part is finding that "yes." As Sauls pointed out, "In a programmatic media ecosystem, no one software solution can ensure brand safety without the complimenting features of cooperation of other parties in the supply chain."

If you are looking at the entire programmatic ad industry as a whole, the answer to brand safety is definitely more complex than 'yes or no' for that very reason. But are there any realistic solutions to that? Industry-wide standards doesn't seem to be the answer, because who's to say that Company X will agree that the standards ensure brand safety? What about brands that don't care that much?

Even though a common theme in recent RTBlogs has been consolidation, perhaps brand safety is an area that a fragmented industry helps.

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