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6 Truths about brand safety every marketer should know

This article is the second in a series of Oracle Data Cloud articles about brand safety. You can read the first article here.


One of the toughest challenges when ensuring brand safety is determining what’s considered “safe,” as this is entirely subjective and often highly specific. A conservative brand may blocklist sites with edgy content, while a forward-focused brand might find its exact audience in those same places.

However, such a broad-brushed example misses the more nuanced reality of brand safety today, and ignores a few key facts marketers cannot afford to forget.


1. People are drawn to controversial topics

It’s the same aspect of human nature that fuels rubbernecking on the freeway after an accident: people are curious creatures. Brands can miss a lot of opportunities when they blocklist sites or create mile-long keyword blocking lists for fear of controversy.

And high demand among cautious brand marketers can drive up pricing on sites considered safe, even if those “ultra-safe” pages might draw less traffic. Brand safety fear is healthy, but too much of it can be costly and lead to lackluster results.


2. There's no such thing as a totally safe site

There are plenty of scenarios demonstrating this fact—airline ads next to news stories about plane crashes, candy commercials preceding those about dental care and cavities, and so on. Safety is about page content and context, not URLs. It’s almost certain that every carefully screened and selected site on a URL-based allowlist could serve up more than one embarrassing matchup.


3. There's a lot of gray area

There are plenty of sites that all brands will want to avoid out in the Wild West of the World Wide Web. But the vast majority of web addresses, or URLs, offer a combination of acceptable and unacceptable content. As a result, navigating the vast ocean of dubious content requires detailed definitions of every brand and its audiences to determine what falls into the thumbs-up category and what is a big fat no-no.

Equally important, the same exercise needs to take place for each campaign and every ad. An ad featuring many raised hands appearing next to an article on advances in prosthetic limbs is cringeworthy, but other brand ads might be just fine. 


4. Change is constant

This fact seems truer than ever. And the internet is the place where change is immediately spotted, captured, connected, and spread. That means your brand strategy tool has to be capable of evolving in real time. Otherwise, today’s perfectly acceptable brand strategy may be dangerously risky or hopelessly out-of-date by tomorrow. Because let’s face it: going viral is not always a good thing.


5. Video rules

As smartphone usage continues to rise and more internet-connected TVs enter every household, video advertising will keep growing. According to a study by Cisco, internet video traffic is expected to more than double over the next few years, making it a channel no advertiser can afford to ignore.

Until recently, no decent brand safety tools existed for video content—especially “in-stream.” After way too many examples of big brands’ ads appearing on videos that featured violent or hate-filled footage, advertisers have every right to be cautious. While growth brings opportunity, a brand safety solution that doesn’t extend to video leaves advertisers vulnerable to the next viral scandal. 


6. Using a machete is foolish when a scalpel will do

Just as avoiding video stifles exposure and hurts customer acquisition, URL blocklists and allowlists limit views and therefore limit conversions. The same is true for out-of-the-box filtering solutions, even those that allow some customization. Likewise, any stagnant solution that doesn’t enable fluid evolution slowly hacks away at meaningful views and limits compounding dollars. Marketers need brand safety solutions that help them eliminate concerns while also assisting them in expanding new and existing audiences. 


4 Steps for effective safety

Brand safety can be a tricky business, yet one of the most important jobs for a marketer is to make sure their messages aren’t bad for business. Here’s a quick checklist for a solid brand safety strategy: 

  1. Select positive and negative keywords for your brand. Make sure to tailor these keywords to each campaign, as different creatives and different messages will have different interpretations of “safe.”
  2. Use context and relevance to make sure you’re not blocking yourself from game-changing opportunities.
  3. Use technology that can scan many millions of pages, videos, and audio files every second, and use proprietary magic to meet your targeting and avoidance requirements (hint: Oracle Proprietary Contextual Intelligence).
  4. Keep updating your safety strategy while continuing to scale your audience! 


It’s time to throw caution to the wind and finally feel confident about your brand safety strategy. Download our contextual brand safety guide, and let us help you get there.


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