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InContext / An inside look at the business of digital content

How to have the brand suitability conversation with advertisers

September 28, 2022 | By Mimi Wotring, SVP of Publisher Sales & Client Services – DoubleVerify @doubleverify

Leaders know that strategic conversations, though often complex and time-consuming, are the ones worth having. Within an industry, the ability to successfully navigate these conversations, both internally and with clients, can separate the quality teams from the pack.

Brand suitability is one of those topics in online advertising where buyers and sellers have plenty to gain from conversations that help them align strategically on goals. According to a DV/Harris poll, 87% of consumers feel that brands bear responsibility for ensuring their ads run adjacent to safe content. Brands have a real financial interest in protecting their brand’s reputation online, and publishers have been tasked with reacting to this new pillar of the digital advertising world.

Conversations reveal opportunities, not doom and gloom

Brand safety and suitability is a concept that is here to stay. However, that doesn’t mean that publishers are doomed to experience rising incident rates on their campaigns. Tools are improving, block rates are decreasing, and teams on both sides of the industry are becoming more efficient, transparent and collaborative. All that remains is continuing to build momentum and best practices for both sides to benefit from the measurement and performance opportunities out there.

With the dwindling (and imminent loss) of third-party cookies, advertisers are experimenting more than ever. They are looking into targeting based on contextual relevance, brand suitability, attention metrics and other alternatives to help them understand performance in more privacy-friendly ways. Publishers hold a lot of power in those conversations if they are proactive about their audience knowledge and technical know-how.

Bringing buyers to the table

For brands and agencies, ad tech has stepped in to provide brand safety and suitability solutions, creating the illusion that it is simply an issue for publishers to deal with alone. However, advertisers still have much to gain from fruitful brand suitability conversations with the sell-side.

Publisher teams need to remind their advertising partners that a “one-size-fits-all” approach does not work effectively when it comes to brand suitability. Publishers and their audiences are diverse. So, limiting strategies can ultimately hold brands back in their efforts to maximize reach and performance. Ad tech has also evolved to the point where brand suitability is not just something you turn on and off. Between inclusion lists, exclusion lists, contextual classifications, mobile app controls, keyword avoidance and more, advertisers have much more diverse and nuanced tools at their disposal.

Icebreakers: Questions to ask your partners

In many cases, brands and agencies may also not know how to navigate these conversations with publishers. New brand suitability tools are regularly made available, and both sides stand to gain from analyzing and revisiting their strategies. Based upon our experience putting together a brand suitability guide, here are some effective questions that publishers can ask to better understand how partners may be thinking about brand suitability.

  1. What types of content does your brand find most or least suitable to advertise next to? Do these topics fit into industry accepted content taxonomies?
  2. Are you utilizing keyword lists in your brand suitability strategy? Are those keywords overlapping with more nuanced brand suitability tools that may be better ways to maximize reach?
  3. Is your team utilizing inclusion lists to deem it appropriate for your ads to always appear on trusted sites and publishers? What are the criteria you have for such distinctions?
  4. Are you utilizing a brand safety floor that protects you from the riskiest content related to malware, phishing and spam?

Deciding to begin a complex conversation is the hardest part. Once you do, the opportunities for improved revenue and reduced friction become apparent.

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