Oracle Data Cloud Blog

Why brand safety is subjective

This week’s guest blog post is contributed by Victor Gamez, Content Marketing Manager, Moat.

In our last blog post on the topic, we provided a brief overview of what brand safety is and why it’s become top of mind for the advertising industry.

Even though brand safety isn’t a new problem, emerging trends like fake news and extremist content are driving the industry to work together to ensure the right impression is delivered in the right environment.

But in setting out to find scalable, strategic solutions, there are at least four different—but  related—challenges the industry must overcome.

In this post, we’ll cover the first of these. We’ll visit the latter three in future posts.

Challenge #1: “Brand safety” is subjective

We’ve said the ultimate goal of brand safety is to protect brand equity and preserve consumer trust by not appearing next to inappropriate content.

One common misconception about brand safety is there is an objective, well-defined set of “brand-safe” and “brand-unsafe” environments.

But different brands serve different customers in different contexts and “inappropriate” can vary significantly. The “true” definition of brand safety depends on an advertiser’s values, beliefs and audience.

Think of brand safety as being made up of two categories: Brand-specific and Universal.



Brands must define according to their values and audience.

Unambiguously unsafe content to appear beside.

Examples: Competitor content, news events, violent entertainment

Examples: Hate speech, terrorism, violence and death


There’s some content that is unambiguously unsafe no matter the brand, such as terrorism and hate speech. Other content is less clear-cut; brands decide on suitability depending on their brand values and the audiences they are looking to reach.

Consider Old Spice, for example. According to data collected by Moat Pro, Old Spice had more standard desktop display ads on Adultswim.com and Twitch.tv than any other domain since the start of 2017.

For context, Adult Swim is the late-night segment of Cartoon Network with programming for adult males featuring animated violence and profanity. Twitch.tv is a live-streaming video platform where users primarily stream themselves playing video games—which also often features violence, gore and profanity.

Compare that to Secret, another health and beauty brand. Its top two domains by advertising activity since the beginning of the year, according to Moat Pro, are Refinery29.com and Whowhatwear.com, both of which cover fashion and style content almost exclusively. This contrast between Secret and Old Spice—both from Procter & Gamble—helps illustrate how a brand’s audience and values help define what content is “safe.”

There are many other conceivable examples of divergent definitions of brand safety. For instance, an alcoholic beverage brand may not want to advertise next to drunk driving reports or news of a product debut from a competitor.

But the same brand may be eager to appear next to news about Game of Thrones,” despite the show’s violence. And a gas company may not want to advertise next to news of an oil spill, even if many brands would be agnostic toward that content. “Brand-safe” is different in each case.

The solution to this challenge is for in-house and brand marketers to decide and formalize what type of content best aligns with the brand and their audience and how they feel about appearing next to sensitive topics.

A set of formal guidelines from the brand is the starting point for the rest of the advertising supply chain—including media and technology partners—to serve ads next to the right content.

Use the following list from technology provider Grapeshot as a conversation starter. Some of this may be fine for certain advertisers, even if many are not.

We’ll return with more posts about the challenges to effective brand safety and the ways forward. In the meantime, learn more in the new white paper from Moat, “Defining Modern Brand Safety.

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About Victor Gamez

Victor is the content marketing manager at Moat, an analytics and advertising measurement firm in the Oracle Data Cloud.

Prior to Moat, Victor provided guidance to marketing executives through original research at Percolate.

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