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Brand Safety: Why should advertisers care?

Updated: May 28, 2022

If you are a bar owner and alcohol is in the news a lot, you might want your digital ad placed next to the news because it is getting a lot of traffic but you do not want your ads to be displayed next to a news article reporting a deadly accident involving drunk people or your ads popping up on a blog post which explains why you should cut down your drinking for a healthier body/mind. You might have an amazing scheme in head and on display that will drive up your sales but it will reflect poorly on your brand if it comes in the situations stated above. In this case, blacklisting some words/terms seems beneficial towards the image of the company.

To understand this, let’s take another example, imagine you are a car dealership owner and you are promoting your new batch of fossil-fuel high- powered cars but your ad starts displaying on a website which is explaining how the population of polar bears and penguins among other Arctic and Antarctic animals has significantly plummeted because of increasing Green House Gasses (GHGs) and emissions. Most people will take that ad in a poor taste and question why people, industrialists in particular like you are being ignorant. It is often said that first impression is the last impression, if someone comes across your ad in this situation for the first time, they have full reason to believe that your brand is threatening the environment, even though it might not be completely true.

But ads being displayed in the wrong parts of the internet is not the only brand safety concern for companies these days. With the internet progressing and bettering itself every day, the problems are getting more complex day-by-day too. Other potential risks to name a few involve invalid traffic, fraudulent e-commerce ads, domain spoofing, extremism, inappropriate content and illegal download ads. Advertisers should be vigilant of these tricks to avoid having monetary and reputational losses.

Every product or service is designed keeping in mind a segment of people who are designated as the target audience for that service or product and if people from the targeted audience are not able to view the things on the market or if they are being seen by bots or people who accidentally clicked on the ads. It defeats the purpose of online advertising. Legitimate ad traffic is important for an online advertising campaign to be successful, only then does the brand truly realise its goal of serving the rightful customer. Otherwise, it is just efforts being wasted and so much time and energy spent in vain. Interaction with a genuinely interested user is how the brand can assure itself some growth, any other exchange will just be stagnating and not so useful.

If we look at fraudulent e-commerce ads, it basically includes numerous tricks used by fraudsters to not only harm the safety of the brand (i.e. reputation) but also steal money. One common way is search ad fraud. In this type of fraud, expensive words are targeted by developing fake websites by fraudsters. Using bots, they drive up the clicks and then sell that ad space to unsuspecting advertisers. They bring in illegitimate clicks along with questionable content which may conflict with brand image and safety. Another, way of tarnishing a brand image/safety is an ad injection.

Imagine you displayed you ad on a legitimate, well- known website. Since you thought that it is a safe website because it is reputable and popular, it does not mean that there is no scope for fraud there. Thing being said, it is safe to say that every website is vulnerable, some more than others. Now, these ad injections are ads slipped onto a website without permission of the publisher. This ad is just sneakily injected which has nothing to do with the website or your ad. But, it could be a bad look not only for your ad but also the website. The ad is generally pornographic content.

In the examples above we have seen how a particular company/brand may be affected because of particular placement of ads in certain areas of the internet However, brand safety means much more than mere placement of ads on websites or a few random useless clicks, it is practically saving money which is lying on the table. It includes the image of a brand and what it associates with completely. It takes years to build a reputation and one wrong move can destroy it and cause monumental damages, especially in today’s world where we have the internet, though which information flows very quickly so does misinformation. Also, nothing ever truly goes away, in the sense that it is permanent, once information is on the internet, no Public Relations team can truly ever get rid of it, they can twist facts and present it another way but, never get rid of it.



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