Jun'22·Andrés Auchterlonie·4 MIN
Compelling reasons to shift from Brand Safety to Brand Suitability
Consumers’ relationships with brands today are almost similar to the relationships they have with people. Besides just providing value in terms of a great product or service, consumers today think of brands as an extension of what they personally stand for. According to a brand survey from 2021, on average, a third of global consumers – and roughly 4 in 10 Mexican, Spanish, Italian, and Brazilian consumers – would switch to a competitor’s products or services if a company they trusted did something to break their trust. A brand’s image takes years to get right and one slip up can cause devastating effects, just by being in the wrong place at the wrong time.
In 2020, we saw a surge in web activity that was driven by an unprecedented news cycle that covered everything from the COVID-19 pandemic to civil movements to the U.S. Presidential Election. This changed the playing field for brands. It was no longer about the quality of the content or ad one put out, but how much it resonated with the person seeing it and where they saw it. The result… brands were either reducing their advertising spend or were being overly cautious. It took one post, one comment, a meme or an inappropriately placed ad to destroy brand value that had taken years to create. No one wanted to see a YouTube ad of theirs precede a user-generated video that promoted terrorism or see an ad being flashed on an adult-website. ‘Guilty by association’ in the digital world is a nightmare. Legacy tactics like URL blocklists and keyword blocking do not hold a whole lot of water in an online world that is changing faster than the current controls can keep up with. This is where ‘Brand Suitability’ plays a paramount role.
‘Brand Safety’ and ‘Brand Suitability’ tend to be used interchangeably. Brand safety is all about protecting the brand’s reputation and to ensure it delivers a positive message, does not appear in unsafe environments or seem confrontational with other brands in the market. Brand suitability is the logical next step in the evolution of brand safety. It goes beyond archaic, and now deemed less efficient, methods of URL blocking and keyword blocking to understand the context and the relationship between content elements on a page to provide marketers with a more precise environment to promote ads or content.
Brand suitability balances risk and opportunity better
Brand safety, while still essential, is getting harder as the nature of content rapidly evolves. Rudimentary tactics lead to overblocking of content and ultimately lower RoI. Brand suitability significantly enhances the ability to manage the balance between risk and scale by better understanding the underlying meaning of content and the context in which it is used.
The techniques prescribed in a brand suitability plan deliver contextual intelligence that cover both brand safety and brand relevance. Focusing on brand suitability provides context-based protections for advertisers and publishers, allowing them to spend less time on matching inventory with just keywords, but more time on understanding context and broader stickiness of their content on a page. This ultimately helps maximize the impact of investments made and yields more positive brand associations and ultimately higher conversion.
Putting it plainly, ‘Suitability’ of an advertisement is about much more than just avoiding incorrect placement. It is about placing it in the right environment that ensures the consumer sees it in the relevant context. With ‘suitability’, it is about ensuring the advertisement or content is at the right place, at the right time and in the right context.
Higher attention and engagement
When the pandemic hit every part of the globe in early 2020, keywords like “coronavirus” and “COVID” went to the top of the most-blocked keywords list. Brands were quick to block any association with such keywords. This worked during the early days of the pandemic, as a quick fix to avoid association with any negative or disheartening content. However, like most keyword blocklists, it eventually began removing opportunities that were safe, in context.
As time went by, not everything that was published with regard to the COVID crisis was negative. We saw positive stories that covered everything from relief efforts and communities coming together, blogs on how to manage working from home, articles on care for toddlers and even pets who now had to stay locked home, and more such positive and motivating content. Eventually, a keyword that was deemed as a brand hazard was positive, in the right context.
That’s where brand suitability leans heavily on context to get you more relevant engagement.
Brand suitability even extends the scope to monitor and moderate the nature of conversation online. For example, a beauty brand can monitor and respond to false claims against it with regard to animal testing and subsequently drive positive brand identity. In a world where engagement is more than just a repost or a like, brand suitability will come to play a bigger role. Brand suitability covers the nuances in language and is able to interpret editorial content and comments to ensure the relevant positive message is always portrayed.
Better alternative to behavioral targeting for advertisers
The use of personal data-driven tools, like third-party cookies, has become an efficient way to identify and target audiences with relevant content. Over the last few years, as consumers have become more aware of online privacy, and governments introducing policies like the GDPR and the California Consumer Privacy Act, we’re seeing a shift towards privacy-first advertising.
With Google coming on board with Apple, to announce the end of their digital ad ecosystem that tracked individual user behavior across the web, many of the behavioral targeting capabilities marketers have relied upon will diminish or vanish altogether. As we prepare for a cookieless era, all is not lost. Contextual targeting will address the safety and suitability standards for brands and ensure that irrespective of user behavior, ads and content placed on relevant pages would still be appealing to the readers of that page. This helps ensure the story the brand wants to portray is considered along with all the brand safety guidelines, and eventually maximize reach. As brands get more interested in the health and quality of their media partners, thanks to the standardized definitions set by trusted bodies such as The Global Alliance of Responsible Media (GARM), it is now easier for brands to leverage tools to track the impact of campaigns and scale at speed.
Imagine two consumers, one looking to buy a camera and the other looking at how to edit pictures. As we move forward, instead of bucketing both buyers into a single interest group of ‘photography enthusiasts’, camera sales teams can show the first user relevant ads for a new camera, while the second buyer can be targeted with ads for photo-editing software or online courses. Brand suitability combined with context targeting is the way forward.
In conclusion, ‘context’ is the fuel of the future. As brands start making the shift to brand suitability, they will regain control of their campaigns and spending. They will be better equipped to keep pace with the rapidly evolving content ecosystem and recognize both opportunities and threats as they arise, and act accordingly.