Brand Safety In A Programmatic Environment

A recent survey has discovered that Australian media buyers are amongst the most eager to invest in programmatic advertising. This may come as a surprise to some due to the recent industry controversy and heated debates around brand safety, which ultimately resulted in an estimated $995 million loss for Google.

With the popularity and meteoric rise of programmatic advertising, and the understanding that brand image is a client's most important asset, how can marketers ensure brand safety in the programmatic advertising environment?

To refresh your memory, the topic of brand safety first came to light when large conglomerates and multinational enterprises including McDonald's, Toyota and Vodafone began pulling their advertisements from the Google owned YouTube. This boycott was attributed of the use of the automated ad placement solution, programmatic advertising, which promises to effectively place ads with precise and tailored audience targeting. However, this method left some brand advertisements vulnerable to be seen amongst offensive, bigoted and potentially reputation ruining content. Even more so, government organisations and charity groups were also susceptible to ad misplacement, in which such establishments were unknowingly and involuntary funding extremist groups through their programmatic advertising efforts. Therefore, it is unsurprising that many brands have removed programmatic marketing from their online advertising strategy, and that brand safety, media transparency and fraud control have become pressing and persistent issues facing many digital marketing agencies today. 

Despite the widespread boycott and concerns around brand safety, a study on programmatic buying trends show that expenditure is predicted to grow from $14.2 billion globally in 2015, to a $36.8 billion by 2019, as brands understand the precise audience targeting and efficiency that the online advertising solution provides.  Other research also claims that 82% of APAC marketers notice a greater ROI with programmatic advertising, in comparison to traditional media buying platforms and are expected to increase their spending by over 100% in the next 12 months. Although statistics like these paint a positive future for the use of programmatic ad buying, the issue of brand safety needs to be addressed to uphold client trust and minimise the risk of ad misplacements. 

Fortunately, such industry discussions have already prompted a shift in the processes and technology surrounding the automated marketing platform. Google Australia recognises their responsibility and has already made much needed modifications to their product and policies, as well as added third-party ad verification software and organised a partnership with ComScore to provide an independent and objective report into brand safety on Youtube. This unbiased report gives advertisers contextual transparency on ad placements and viewability which can be passed on to their clients. 

In conjunction, programmatic digital advertising agencies too should update their process and technology if not done so already. For example, the team at RGC Advertising prioritises our clients brand and reputation by following stringent internal procedures to alleviate brand safety concerns. Our trained ad specialists create black lists which prohibit the placement of advertisements on sites that match specific criteria including adult content, malware, violence, offensive language, hate and racism speech and bot networks. This non-exhaustive list is manually monitored, updated and modified on a regular basis for each client and campaign, diminishing the potential risk of unwanted and damaging ad placements. We also understand that brand safety manifests differently depending on the client, therefore we pride ourselves on a transparent B2B relationship with detailed reports and easy to understand metrics. We also access a range of ad tech vendors and software to find the best placements for the client.  

Programmatic ad buying is undoubtedly beneficial for clients to effectively reach their consumers, with the right message at the right time. While the automated software has come under scrutiny in recent times, the Google ad boycott has highlighted and brought attention to various areas that need improvement within the industry and provoked an immediate change. In order to ensure brand safety in an automated programmatic advertising space, third party ad verification software and updated internal policies within digital media agencies need to be implemented in order to validate that brand ad placements are effective and contextual. By following these brand safety measures, agencies can ensure that their clients reap the benefits of programmatic software, particularly as the industry becomes more dependent on automated marketing processes.

RGC is a programmatic advertising company dedicated to providing our clients with the best possible outcomes to reach their consumers. We have strict internal policies to maintain brand safety and pride ourselves on our transparent client relationships. To find out more about how we can implement a programmatic campaign, while ensuring brand safety through online advertising, please contact Richard on (02) 8883 2988 or email This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.