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Brand safety in an unsafe world

As advertising has evolved, brands have become more and more aware of the need to protect themselves from appearing against any negative content. But in an age where our lives and online content have both been taken over by global pandemics and more recently, the cry for justice against racism, it is becoming increasingly challenging to avoid appearing against political content or news stories that may pose a risk to how your brand is perceived.

It was estimated that the total loss to news publishers could be £50 million depending on how long the pandemic lasts if brands continued to include “coronavirus” in their blocklists. An open letter to advertisers was published on the 31st March to mark the start of the #BackdontBlock movement.

However, loss to publishers aside, how much content could you be missing out on with stringent blocklists? IAS carried out research which demonstrated that “82% are actively seeking out coronavirus news and content online”, while 87% are actually consuming more news than usual. Arguably, the 82% that are actively seeking out coronavirus content could be your target audience.

In an ever-changing environment where countries and peoples have come closer to unite across borders, there are bound to be many more instances of situations or movements that will dominate the media and be consumed at a much larger scale than seen before. This presents new challenges from a brand safety perspective. But should you be trying to block everything, or is there more that you can do as a brand to be more considerate and relevant with your advertising? 

At All Response Media, we use tools such as MOAT to manage brand safety, and Google has also recently published information about their sensitive categories and which ones are best to use for varying degrees of Covid-19 content. However, for a long-term brand safety strategy, consider these three key areas of focus:

Re-evaluate on an ongoing basis what is and is not suitable content for you to appear against. Is your current blocklist an accurate representation of what you need to avoid? Think about whether your chosen keywords will result in you missing out on any positive news stories as well. Reputable and widely consumed publications will report on the hot topic of the day which may often be negative, but you may miss out on quality inventory for positive news stories and general information as well, by not being accurate with your blocklist.

Another thing to think about is what is happening in the news world and how does your brand or vertical fit into the picture? For example, if you are a travel brand, consumers may not react favourably to seeing your brand appear against coronavirus content, given the current restrictions. Think about how consumers might feel about your vertical at any given moment.

Smarter targeting
Think about the ‘who’, not the ‘what’. Focus your efforts on finding your ideal customer. Understand your target audience: who are they, what interests them, what type of content do they like to read, and so on. Use this knowledge to incorporate more contextual targeting into your digital strategy.

You can also use audience insights and historical data to understand which publications your target audience are more likely to consume. This gives you the ability to home in on the most relevant publications for your audience (consider running these as private marketplace deals), minimising brand risk and still reaching a relevant audience.

Mindful creatives
Your digital creatives are effectively part of your online storefront. It can be the first time that a consumer is meeting you, or it could be that they know you but just need that extra bit of encouragement to trust you. In a precarious digital climate, creatives can build trust, or they can break a relationship. Many brands focus on following brand guidelines and driving conversions or hitting their key performance indicators (KPIs) – and rightly so! However, it is important to add another factor in for consideration when designing creatives: 

What emotions might these words/images/colours trigger with my target audience, given what is currently happening in the world?

Being considerate and mindful of what might be occupying people’s minds and making small tweaks to the way you speak to your consumers, could make all the difference!

For more information on the digital services we offer click here.