Over the past 18 months we’ve seen a steady influx of brand safety challenges that have left major brands with big questions. Only last month Cisco made the decision to remove all ads from YouTube to avoid them from featuring ‘accidentally’ around any un-warned or sensitive content.

When it comes to designing a protection strategy, things become more complex. Gone are the days of the simple tick-box; with so much content circulating online, a brand’s safety strategy should be designed specifically around them. It requires a larger emphasis on context – for example, understanding how content relates to each individual brand, in addition to the desired context of the page.

One size doesn’t fit all

With brand safety being a subjective metric, what’s considered safe for one brand may not be safe for another. For example, Coca-Cola would likely want to refrain from content relating to obesity and the sugar tax, while BMW avoids speeding and driving scandals.

Similarly, Ribena may be best sat next to harmless content, while an alcohol brand like Smirnoff would be more appropriate for edgier titles. It’s therefore important to understand that a brand safety solution is not one size fits all.

Brands differ, needs evolve and risk tolerance is relative. To achieve optimal results and overall campaign success, advertisers require a flexible customer safety solution that addresses unique needs and pain points in order to produce desired results.

Brands should therefore work with their service providers to figure out the environments in which they should and shouldn’t be appearing.

Take a proactive approach

When it comes to brand safety, once the damage is done, the repercussions are there to stay. Reputational damage can have significant financial implications, sometimes costing reputable brands upwards of millions of pounds in lost revenue or lack of new customer acquisition.

Brand safety isn’t just something that should be turned on when a negative or misaligned event occurs. A robust brand safety strategy is an always-on approach, which involves constantly monitoring and reacting in a sea of evolving content, and placing advertising and engaging consumers in the moment that matters.

Create a relevant experience

Recent research from the CMO Council cited that almost half of consumers would abandon brands if their ads appeared next to offensive digital content or fake news. This supports the notion that consumers are more likely than ever to boycott brands that make poor choices online.

Ultimately, brand safety is hinged on creating a relevant experience for consumers by placing them in front of safe and relevant advertising. This requires brands to get to know their customers on a deeper, more holistic level, and knowing the nuances of their needs, likes and even dislikes. In turn this will allow brands to tailor content to the needs of the individual.

Audience extension at scale

Keeping your brand and message away from harmful and toxic content doesn’t have to mean limiting the scale of the campaign. It’s easy to forget that we live in a world of fragmented audiences, limited attention and rapidly evolving content.

Therefore, by identifying trending contexts and content, brands can find where their audience is most engaged and what content is holding their attention.

Looking ahead

2018 brings its own set of programmatic challenges that brands must overcome, and brand safety now encapsulates a broad spectrum of issues. Staying abreast of these issues will require constant effort, and in the ever-changing digital landscape the pressure is on for marketers to deliver results at scale without jeopardising brand equity.

However, the future is bright. The new standards of brand safety should, and will, empower brands and marketers to take control of media buying and execute their campaigns with confidence.