Is Your Brand Safety Up To Snuff? Stop Wasting Good Money On Bad Impressions

It’s the day before your new health and wellness campaign launch and the agency has assured you everything is on track to be successful. The programmatic partners have everything in place and have given the thumbs up to your brand-spankin’ new digital creative — you know, the banners that expand into full-page takeovers showcasing amazing videos and slideshows. 

The agency is happy. The partners are happy. Your boss is happy. You are happy. The “i’s” have been dotted and the “t’s” have been crossed. All that’s left to do is sit back and let the campaign do its magic. 


Fast forward one week and the bad news starts to trickle in. Your programmatic partner is on pace with impression delivery and, for the most part, the reach looks good. But then you look at the site delivery. They deliveredwhere? The Chive? Ebaumsworld? Video poker sites? There’s an audience here, sure, but it’s not the audience you assumed your partner would be honing in on.



What was missing?
Right Place. Right Audience. Quality Inventory. 

The concepts of brand safety and verification are rarely, if ever, brought to the high-level discussions that happen between marketer and agency. Often, the agency’s technology team and the chosen brand safety partner are pulling these brand safety levers with the marketing team having very little exposure or insight into what is actually being done on the backend. In many instances, marketing may not even know which brand safety partner their agency is using. 

In today’s world, you should be motivated to intimately know the details of your brand safety plan. A good agency will have eyes from all levels verifying that they have not only switched on their brand safety controls, but that they’ve also fine-tuned to that sweet spot that you, the client, is seeking. After all, what good is your digital campaign if your ads are serving in the wrong places?

If you haven’t checked in on your brand safety situation recently, here are some action items to look out for:

Children’s Content

A standard approach to brand safety might include blocking your ads against content related to the “usual suspects” that marketers should be directing to adult audiences only, i.e., drugs, alcohol, violence, pornography, politics, gambling, illegal downloads, and weapons. 

If that standard approach is the only approach taken, you might consider yourself to be in the clear. But what if you’re selling a pharmaceutical drug for arthritis and your ad ends up being served on a site like, a website aimed at K-8 children and featuring games like Math Baseball and Bumble Numbers?

Sure, doesn’t fall under any of the hot button adults-only media, but is it a space you feel is safe for your brand? Also, how much money is being wasted advertising your pharmaceutical to an audience of children? Make sure your agency is specifically blocking against children’s content or content not suitable for your target audience.

A Safe Site with Unsafe Articles

It’s not enough for your ad to be seen on reputable news outlets like CNN or more niche lifestyle publications like Men’s Health. Too often we see the domain (for example, “”) and assume this is a good, safe space for our brand.

This is not the case if the particular article your ad appeared next to directly contradicts your brand’s message and values. Take for instance an ad for a prominent airline next to a breaking news update on a recent plane crash. Or an ad for a male enhancement drug next to an article about a busted prostitution ring.

When advertising on news outlets, the proper steps need to be taken. Consult with your brand safety partner on blocking specific negative news categories. Also, develop and actively maintain a keyword blacklist that can be used to block your ad from serving on negative news. 

Low-Quality Pages

When leveraging programmatic buys, your ad can sometimes land in some very confusing spaces. If you’ve ever mistyped a URL without realizing it, you may have been directed to a page that looks to be a list of links tangentially related to the content you were seeking, alongside some random advertisements. Other times you may enter a URL for a page that needs to renew their domain. This is an example of a domain parking page, where no actual content has been developed but advertisements will still render.

It’s rare any company would want to be seen on these types of pages, but, unfortunately, these types of sites can slip into the programmatic marketplace. And, much like children’s content, this type of page doesn’t fall under the usual suspects. Have your agency blacklist these types of sites if they ever appear on a site delivery report and keep that blacklist updated and shared with you regularly.

Don’t Launch Programmatic without a Safety Net

Brand safety partners -- like DoubleVerify or Integral Ad Science to name a few -- are good resources to turn to when questions about brand safety and verification come up. Usually, these relationships are maintained through the agency’s technology team, so don’t be afraid to reach out and make your desire for more understanding known.

Smart, successful programmatic campaigns don’t happen on their own – it requires proactive planning and constant monitoring after launch. Make sure your agency is well equipped and knows what to monitor when it comes to brand safety. It may seem like a very granular piece of the puzzle but the more hands-on you are with your brand safety measures, the more you can rest easy knowing your advertising dollars are not going to waste.

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