Brand Safety (© WrightStudio /
Brand Safety (© WrightStudio /

In online marketing, brand safety refers to the processes and tools that ensure an ad will not appear in any context in which it could do harm to an advertiser’s brand. Brand safety is extremely important, as poor placement of advertisements could potentially damage a brand’s reputation, negatively impact sales, and ultimately ruin the overall success of a business


Brand Safety explained

When applied to digital advertising, brand safety refers to the tools and practices that guarantee an ad that is placed online does not appear in any context that could possible damage the brand of an advertiser. When it comes to online advertising, this is extremely important because advertisers do not want to invest any amount of money on an online ad campaign in which their advertisements could end up being placed next to inappropriate, offensive or negative information. Placement of ads next to such content could negatively impact a brand, as it could reduce sales, damage a brand’s reputation, and ultimately ruin the success of a business.

For instance, a hotel wouldn’t want to have their ads placed next to an article that discusses the epidemic of bed bugs in hotel rooms. Likewise, a soda company wouldn’t want to have their ads place next to an article that highlights the negative effects soda has on health. Additionally, advertisers have little knowledge or control over where their ads are being placed, especially on video content sites, such as YouTube.

OpenPR-Tip: As such, brand safety ensures that brands can guarantee their ads won’t be displayed before content that could be seen as offensive or inappropriate. Should an ad for a brand be placed before such content, that brand would then be associated with that inappropriate or offensive content, which could potentially lead to irreversible damage.

Categories Brands Should Avoid Placing Ads Next To

There are specific categories or topics that brands are going to want to avoid placing their ads next to. These topics include anything that would be seen as offensive, inappropriate, or negative in any other way to consumers. Some of the categories that advertisers want to avoid placing ads for brands next to include:

  • Adult content
  • Promotion of illegal activities
  • Taboo/controversial topics
  • Illegal substances
  • Controlled substances
  • Alcohol
  • Anything that perpetuates hate
  • Profanity
  • Anything concerning religion
  • Anything concerning politics
  • User generated content that is not moderated

Tools and Processes Used in Brand Safety

There are different tools and processes that can be used in brand safety measures. Commonly, within an ad network, websites can be scanned so that inappropriate content can be detected with the Brand Monitoring. Additionally, brand safety measures can be taken at a campaign level. This would involve embedding a code with an advertisement.

The code would then scan ad placement locations, including URLs and domains, and would determine whether or not the location was considered inappropriate. When inappropriate content is found, an ad verification vendor would prevent the ad from being displayed near that content, or the URL would be flagged so that an advertiser could see it on a post-campaign report.

History of Brand Safety

Initially, services associated with brand safety were only offered to agencies via dedicated services and tools. Today, however, these services and tools are more commonly being embedded directly into ad servers, ad network solutions and ad exchange.

Improving a Brand’s Safety

Advertisers shouldn’t just use tools for brand safety; they should also follow certain steps to further safeguard the brands that they are working with. These steps include:

  • Curating an inventory to improve the accuracy of ad placement
  • Accepting third-party tags, which provides access to crucial post-ad campaign insight into where ads were run
  • Whitelisting and backlisting website and mobile app inventory, which makes it possible to clearly determine where ads should and shouldn’t appear
  • Thorough post-campaign reporting on viewability, impressions and conversions

Brand Safety is one part of a great Brand Management


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