The 2020 Digital Advertising Brand Safety Playbook

GroupM Brand Safety Team

Building brand love means mastering brand safety

The GroupM Brand Safety Playbook is a masterclass in digital advertising practices that ensure consumer trust.

The advertising industry is one of the world’s most dynamic, everchanging and vibrant industries. It is always striving to find better ways to engage with users through new channels and media, in addition to new solutions to connect with consumers through technology. That requires brand safety to evolve equally as fast to ensure consumer trust.

Traditionally, brand safety risk was limited to digital advertising—programmatic and social. Now, with established media digitizing and reinventing themselves, opportunities to improve brand safety practices are appearing across new avenues. Combined, these factors yield new challenges for established media and old challenges for new media. But there is opportunity to be found with every obstacle. Brand safety is a complex, nuanced matter and will continue to evolve in the years ahead.

In this report, we look at what the future may hold. We begin with an overview of political, social and technological shifts impacting brand reputation at a high level. We then look to specific challenges in five categories currently undergoing rapid transformation: Connected TV, Digital Out-of-Home, Location Data, Audio and Gaming.

Here are 10 key takeaways from Brand Safety: A GroupM Playbook for Marketers

  1. Policy shifts such as GDPR and CCPA, among many others around the world, have created a seismic ripple throughout the industry, the full effects of which are yet to be felt. As old measurement methodologies such as third-party cookies fall away, the industry has an opportunity to collectively create better standards.
  2. The COVID-19 pandemic has established a ‘new normal’ ‘digital first’ lifestyle for the majority of the global population. Consumption habits have changed (more news, gaming and streaming content). Where consumers go, advertising follows and, with it, new opportunities to strengthen brand safety measures arise. Aggressive keyword avoidance demonetizes online news as the audiences increase and at a time when the public needs reliable information. Local news faces an existential crisis.
  3. Fake news and technologies that create deepfake videos are growing more sophisticated and threaten to further erode institutional trust. Brands must be more proactive than ever in preserving their core assets and demand transparency in all transactions.
  4. Too much brand safety is also a concern. As brands work to preserve their equity and authenticity, they should beware of becoming overly cautious. Doing so may decrease the impact of overall performance.
  5. Connected TV promises to command a larger share of budget in the coming years. However, measurement is fragmented across devices and publishers. Brands should demand greater transparency and interoperability among key players.
  6. Digital Out-of-Home is set to grow more advanced and complex as programmatic buying becomes more commonplace. While out-of-home has long been used for broad awareness, it remains an open question as to whether brands will have—or need—access to more granular targeting and measurement solutions.
  7. Precise location data is a sensitive issue that will require additional due diligence. The development of location verification services and aggregate learnings could mitigate some risk unless personal data becomes less available.
  8. Audio is growing as streaming music and podcasts become further entrenched in consumers’ lives. Currently, advertiser controls are in their nascence, and brand suitability/adjacency remains a concern, particularly in the world of podcasts, where content standards remain loose across the board.
  9. Gaming presents a huge opportunity in terms of audience, but brands must navigate a vast landscape of platforms, titles, player personalities and publisher relationships. Esports continues to grow in popularity, but brands must be aware of adjacency risks (violence and language, particularly). If people continue to stay home in the aftermath of the coronavirus, gaming audiences will retain some of the recent, rapid growth.
  10. Fundamentals still matter. As brand safety continues to shift and evolve with media and technology, brands must not lose sight of established best practices, which serve as a vital North Star in uncertain times.


Relevant Articles: