Brand Safety and Suitability have long been top of mind for advertisers. While these two standards are important to maintaining a brand’s reputation across digital environments, there is one measure that advertisers should be considering before their campaigns even take root: Brand Integrity.
In the past year, we watched our industry and the world-at-large grapple with uncertainty and change of epic proportions. Advertisers and businesses of every size were challenged with rethinking the way they do business and what they want their brands to signal for consumers. And what’s more, they were driven to make important changes to help build more diverse, equitable and inclusive organizations that authentically connect with the multicultural world in which we live. In short, there was a reckoning in terms of brand values and how to impart those across everything advertisers do – from the materials they buy to the partners they do business with to the final messaging they share with their consumers.
This renewed focus on brand values in today’s current environment has driven some advertisers to seek short-term fixes to their media placements in times of crisis and misinformation – sometimes pausing spend altogether. But with the right partners and strategy, brands can invest responsibly with tailored creative, be mindful of their diverse media investments and more closely evaluate how they work with verification partners. By looking internally to their own values and becoming more proactive about evaluating their own company, this thinking will extend to their partners as well. If you have a clear understanding of who you are and with whom you partner, you’ll have more confidence that they’ll respond in the right way when turbulent times or issues occur.
To help the industry start to think in this way, a new set of standards are required to help advertisers and agencies think about how to maintain Brand Integrity throughout the entire campaign process and without interruption. For our clients, we’ve developed a unique framework and flowchart to help them focus and think about this in four key areas:
Brand Values & Principles – we start by providing a framework that determines a brand’s actions, based on their values. Principles will then extend this to marketing by dictating brand suitability, choice of media placement, creative and messaging. Take for example an outdoor brand. Their values and principles might include conservation and this intrinsically impacts the way it sources products, reduces environmental impact, creative messaging used in campaigns and developing a media plan that reaches an environmentalist audience.
Authenticity, Diversity, Equity, Inclusion & Belonging – next we explore a company’s makeup of their workforce and ensure it is an inclusive space for everyone. A company’s proactive approach to DE&I imparts authenticity through an inclusive attitude toward media planning, use of platforms and selection of agency partners. It also sets standards for what is acceptable behavior and a corporate culture for its partners. A focus on these areas will also ensure creative is a better reflection of a diverse and multicultural society, as well as the media plan that supports it – ensuring it includes a diverse and multicultural buying focus.
Content & Consumer-Facing Messaging – based on the first two components, the brand’s communication with consumers is now dictated by brand values and informed by DE&I when it comes to creative messaging and the partners with whom they work.
Data Standards & Ethics – one final area of focus ison consumer identity and the use of signals across digital media. Every brand has to determine how best to use consumer signals in a way that maintains and builds trust – ensuring they are adding value to people’s lives. In this area, we work with client compliance teams, as well as our verification and brand safety partners, to provide best practices, recommendations and appropriate frameworks and guidance for their needs.
After all, a consumer’s relationship with a brand is influenced by factors outside of just context or adjacency, and Brand Integrity is the opportunity to be more inclusive of new and diverse media partners and the ability to align messaging and responses for when – and even before – a crisis hits.
It’s up to all of us as leaders within this industry to make a positive change now so that the work we’re pushing out more accurately reflects the altruistic, socially-responsible and diverse world in which we live. We owe it to our consumers to bring messaging that truly resonates with them and their needs.