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InContext / An inside look at the business of digital content

Digital trust and safety: Do you have what it takes?

May 4, 2022 | By Chris Olson, CEO & Co-Founder—The Media Trust @TheMediaTrust

It’s not hard to see that digital advertising is undergoing another paradigm shift. Spurred by pandemic-fueled online use and continued cyber-driven attacks, consumers are becoming more aware of internet dangers. From ransomware and credit card theft to scams and inappropriate content, consumers have had enough.

Today’s consumers want to feel cared for and cared about. They also prefer brands whose values align with their own.

Recognizing this sentiment, brands seek to showcase how they contribute to building a better world as evidenced by multiple initiatives covering diversity, sustainability, and responsible programming. For publishers, this consumer-first mentality extends to the online environment, where brands are looking to safeguard consumer expectations of privacy and security.

Welcome to digital trust and safety.

A new era in digital

Digital trust and safety requires understanding and addressing the harmful content and/or conduct experienced by consumers when accessing websites/mobiles apps. This ranges from how digital products are built, managed, and promoted through to how they make consumers think, feel, and act. In effect, it’s all about putting the consumer at the center of decisions regarding their online experience.

This thinking is critical when you consider the different risks faced by different consumers, especially the more vulnerable members of society, e.g., elderly, children, technologically naive.

Layer on the reality of targeting and national security risks become apparent as government and military employees are consumers, too.

Accepting responsibility for the consumer experience transforms how the industry—brands, AdTech, publishers—approaches its contribution to the consumer experience. Instead of  focusing on activity that affects a business (viewability, ad fraud or brand safety), you prioritize actions that impact the consumer to build trust. As Conny Braams, Unilever’s Chief Digital and Commercial Officer recently acknowledged, “The currency in Web 3.0 is not crypto, it’s trust.” It has become clear: Digital trust and safety is the next phase in the digital evolution chain. 

The evolution is underway—just look at the new and growing crop of job titles on LinkedIn.

Factors driving digital trust and safety

Going beyond ad fraud, content moderation, bots and other brand-oriented initiatives, digital trust and safety is all about the consumer. It is driven by security, data privacy, and trusted content.

  • Security: Protecting consumers and their devices from malicious, anomalous, compromised, or non-compliant code that enables distribution of backdoors, credit card theft, ransomware, cryptomining, etc.
  • Data privacy: Guarding against unauthorized tracking of consumer activity, especially when performed by unknown parties
  • Trusted content: Ensuring the substance of the experience doesn’t endanger consumer well-being, e.g., false claims, misinformation, online scams, etc.

With digital at the nexus of companies and consumers, there’s nothing more important than safeguarding the user experience. It’s more than ad fraud and blocking ads. This focus on safety and security encompasses the entire consumer experience.

Adopting a consumer-first approach isn’t hard, but it does require unwavering dedication. Once executives agree that consumer well-being is important, this thinking will cascade to permeate all aspects of the business. All it takes is consistently asking and documenting the impact on consumers for key touchpoints and commercial initiatives, from product introduction and feature development to marketing promotions and customer service. This  guiding principle will add clarity to and inform decisions. It can also serve as a competitive differentiator elevating your business in the eyes of the market.

It’s your move

Government leaders and regulators are listening. Various initiatives are underway to protect  consumer online experiences: UK Online Safety Act, EU Digital Services Act, ban on surveillance advertising, more limits on data collection, and more.

Collectively, the industry needs to stop harmful activity as it enters the digital ecosystem and  ultimately before it is served to consumers. Frankly, it’s the right thing to do. That’s how we engender trust, and a trusting consumer will buy more (90% of consumers would buy more from a brand they trust).

Ask yourself: Are you willing to put the consumer first when it comes to digital? I’m game. Are you?

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