Google Or Blind Programmatic? Which Is The Brand Safety's Arch Villain?

Given the brand safety debacle over YouTube and brand safety, you would think that the subject was always front of mind at media agencies -- if not before, then certainly at some point during the first quarter.

However, only one in four (27%) media buyers feels informed about what brand safety measures are in place when they buy inventory, according to new research from Vibrant Media. A matching quarter (24%) didn't answer the question, while more than a third don't feel informed and a sixth feel only informed by some vendors, and even then only partially. 

So there you have it -- if you assume that the quarter of respondents who didn't answer did so because they didn't have an answer to give, that really leaves us with just one in four feeling confident when they buy inventory that they know what brand safety precautions are in place.

Interestingly, the research also went on to identify that for nearly nine in ten buyers, brand safety is their top priority and that three in four agree that sites with unsafe content should be boycotted. Nevertheless, not even one in three media buyers -- just 28% -- claim to know where their ads are running.

Quite a coincidence that, isn't it? Just 27% of media buyers feel informed of the brand safety measures in place at sites whose spots they are buying and a corresponding 28% of marketers feel they know where their ads are going.

It might be putting two and two together to make five, you always have to be careful with statistics, but would it be reasonable to assume that the same 27% of marketers are relying on direct buys or non-blind programmatic? That would certainly back up how they can say they know where their ads are going. Would it then be fair to say that the rest are mixing and matching and have blind programmatic buys as part of their plan? The reasons for them not knowing what brand safety measures are in place is the very simple fact they're not always sure where the inventory is going.

Now, Vibrant Media clearly has a dog in this fight because it is using the research to back up the launch of a new ad-guarantee product, but the figures are pretty revealing. Nevertheless, the figures are fascinating. At the very time brand safety has made the headlines of the national press and got an entire nation talking, along comes what amounts to an admission that it's not something that agencies are doing too much about.

Put it this way -- a veritable who's who of major brands joined a boycott of YouTube this Spring over some cases of organisations advertising against extremist material. The agencies were shocked, and offered brands the chance to pull out. Many did. Contrast this with a confession that only a quarter of media buyers feel they know what brand safety measures are in place, and it looks a little like double standards, doesn't it?

Agencies are shocked and so are shunning Google, yet three in four media buyers doesn't feel able to say out loud that they are confident they are putting spend in places that are safe.

As mentioned, the reason has to be blind programmatic, doesn't it? The long tail of the Internet is wagging as inventory is sprayed to every corner of the Web.

The irony is, brand safety was the first major issue the IAB UK dealt with. Vendors are now certified so advertisers and agencies can ensure that wherever their messages are going, they are being protected by someone the IAB UK deems fit to watch their back. The only reason, then, must surely be the very logical answer that blind programmatic compromises brand safety. Or at the very least, it by definition compromises how assured you can be of brand safety and that is pretty much the same thing.

Avoiding YouTube when only one in four feel confident about brand safety in the rest of their buying seems a little like a double standard, doesn't it?

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