Time Is Ripe For Brand Safety Officers To Step Up To Plate

  • by , Op-Ed Contributor, September 12, 2018
From Starburst ads introducing videos promoting gang warfare on YouTube, to Facebook’s alleged mismanagement of Myanmar hate speech, brands continue to struggle to protect themselves against damaging content online. But with too much regulation of content and conversation, we’re equally at risk of creating a militant web environment that consumers do not want to use.

How can brands ensure they’re protected against the risk of appearing alongside unsavory content, all while maintaining this conversational freedom?

The answer may lie in marketers taking the situation into their own hands to take responsibility for their own safety by investing in the necessary manpower and infrastructure to safeguard against online risks.

Employ a dedicated executive

Research shows over two thirds of brands have experienced at least one unsafe brand exposure in the last year, proving that a haphazard approach to online protection doesn’t work. Brands serious about their safety must build the in-house capabilities to make systemic changes to how their business works, in addition to whom they partner with.



Increasingly, marketers are appointing executives or full teams dedicated to solving brand safety challenges. This person can take responsibility for implementing a tailored safeguarding strategy, and also ensuring that a brand’s partners are held accountable to the agreed standards.

Brand safety is a nuanced art -- what’s considered offensive content to one audience, won’t be to another -- so having a dedicated operative in place to answer these questions is a first line of defense.

However, a BSO will only be successful if the entire team is on board with the strategy. That’s why any BSO must also ensure that safeguarding protocols are understood across the whole brand and its partners, from marketing employee to CEO.

Invest in the right tech

Another obstacle is the inability for brands to keep up with technological innovation. Image-dominant platforms have grown in recent years, attracting swaths of cult-like fans, with brand advertising inevitably following.

However, there continues to be an obsession about text-based content among brands, which leaves many relying on text analysis, blacklists and whitelists to keep their content safe. But by focusing on text alone, brands are exposing themselves to damaging content in the form of images and videos. Just look at the many recent YouTube scandals. 

With this in mind, brands should consider technology that can screen damaging content before ads are placed -- whether that be word, image, or video -- to ensure brand content always appears in the most user-friendly environment. 

Text analysis might automatically remove questionable pages that include brand unsafe keywords, but computer vision technology can independently navigate brand-safety hurdles in the form of images and videos by scanning web pages and activating changes in real time. 

This two-pronged approach gives marketers the power to infiltrate large expanses of visual territory online, all while remaining inherently protected – adding another layer to the safeguarding strategy.

Stronger together

Brand safety can no longer be seen as the collateral duty of everyone and the responsibility of no one. It’s time brands step up and confront these issues head on, by introducing preemptive solutions that take charge of exactly where their messaging is being delivered, to ensure safety at scale.

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