COVID-19, Crumbling Cookies Force Brand Safety Rethink

GroupM released a new brand safety report today that addresses specific issues including COVID-19 and the GDPR and CCPA policy shifts.

The report forecasts how brand safety may evolve in the future within the context of political, social and technological shifts. It also explores specific challenges in categories including connected TV, digital out-of-home, location data, audio and gaming.

 “In the first six months of 2020 alone, CCPA has taken effect, Google announced they would be phasing out third cookies and the home stretch of the 2020 presidential campaign has come into full focus increasing the attention on fake news,” said John Montgomery, GroupM global executive vice president, brand safety, who along with his team authored the report.

Along with the pandemic and the social justice protests “each of these events marks a unique opportunity to continue to challenge our brand safety practices.”



The report asserts that as cookies fall away, independent third-party measurement becomes endangered. “Simply put, if measurement companies cannot access data directly and can only gain access to already processed aggregate data from the publishers themselves, measurement may stop being impartial. While it may appear that this problem is limited to audience verification, content verification may not be exempt if content categories or URLs are seen to be revealing personal data.”

The good news, per the report is the emerging opportunity “for the industry to forge a new and more collaborative privacy-enabled future. To do that, the industry must find a new way to steer the right advertising to the right people, moving away from existing identifiers and creating new, privacy-friendly ways to advertise.” 

The COVID-19 crisis has forced changes in media consumption habits (more news, gaming and streaming content).  Paradoxically while news consumption is up, ad sales have plummeted in part because advertisers don’t want to be associated with negative content. “Local news faces an existential crisis,” the report surmises. (As previously reported, GroupM has partnered with TripleLift on a program to help news sites.)

“Where consumers go, advertising follows and, with it, new opportunities to strengthen brand safety measures arise. Aggressive keyword avoidance demonetizes online news as the audiences increase and at a time when the public needs reliable information."

Compounding the problem is fake news, which is on the rise. “Brands must be more proactive than ever in preserving their core assets and demand transparency in all transactions.”

The report concludes:  “The risk may evolve, but the underlying truths will always be valid: Independent measurement is critical, industry-defined standards and framework are crucial, and education and literacy programs are necessary.”

Access the full report here



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