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Brand safety is a hot topic in digital right now, and with good reason. Thanks to several recent high-profile incidents, there’s been a lot of concern around programmatic buying, in particular. Here’s what two of the industry’s biggest players are doing to reassure brands and, most importantly, what you as an advertiser can do to help protect your reputation.

YouTube steps up its brand safety measures

In light of last year’s issues, YouTube is making significant changes to restore its credibility in the eyes of brands who might have doubts about advertising on the platform.

More human (as opposed to currently used algorithm) content checks will be built into the verification process and stricter rules will be put in place for those who monetise their content using TrueView ads. For example, vlogger content will be looked at more closely and penalised if it violates YouTube’s rules, to help protect the reputation of brands whose ads appear within the content.

If you want more assurances about where your YouView ads will run, you can soon make use of the Google Preferred network. Ads bought from here will only appear within some of the most premium and trusted video content on the platform. This approach will almost certainly mean higher cost-per-thousand impressions (CPMs) but at least you’ll be certain of the context in which your ads will appear.

Integrations with third party verification partners and the introduction of a three-tier suitability rating will also offer more clarity on where your ads will run.

Facebook implements more controls for advertisers

As an open platform with new content uploaded to it every minute of every day, Facebook can be a tricky place to monitor. However, the platform has announced that it’s doubled its content review team as of last September to speed up the process of removing malicious posts.

The social media giant is also working with third party partners to develop brand safety tools. Integral Ad Science and DoubleVerify are some of the largest verification providers to have integrated with Facebook to validate content and tackle brand safety. In addition, it promises that pre-campaign reports detailing the Facebook partners who are eligible to monetise their content will be made available to advertisers. This will provide more transparency on where and, more importantly, what your ads could potentially appear alongside.

As well as reducing ad fraud, could ads.txt help protect brand safety?

Ads.txt is a small piece of code that’s added to publisher sites, to declare their authenticity to sell digital ad inventory. Originally, it was created to prevent and deter fraudulent sites from posing as publishers and committing ad fraud. But it’s had a positive knock-on effect for brand safety, too.

As fraudulent activity decreases, and inventory becomes better validated, you can be more confident that your ads will appear where they should. Adoption of ads.txt is growing and as the number of publishers using it increases, the more safe inventory they’ll be for you to buy.

Six ways to build a safer ad campaign

Good news – there are many brand safety targeting options available to help you protect your brand reputation when buying programmatic ads. We recommend you always use the following:

Digital content labels

We start by using these to exclude categories deemed below our standard of what’s safe.

Sensitive categories

Next, we break content down further into sensitive topics that you probably wouldn’t want to serve your ads alongside. These can include transportation accidents, sensitive social issues and violence.

Website blacklists and whitelists

We utilise a global blacklist of flagged URLs and apps which we deem unacceptable. In some cases, we only use whitelists of specific verified publisher sites, but this can impact reach.

Negative keywords

In a similar way to how website blocking works, we have a global keyword list that we exclude from our activity, which we review regularly. We can also add client-specific and other relevant keyword blacklists.

Private marketplace

We work with our clients and chosen publishers to buy premium inventory that’s safe and only available to advertisers who enter a private auction.

Third party verification

We have the ability to integrate with third party verification providers via our programmatic DSP. These include some of the largest partners, such as Integral Ad Science, DoubleVerify and Adloox.

Louis Schermuly, is biddable media analyst, iCrossing.