Back to Member Vault

Brand safety & brand suitability: definitions, differences & the demand for both


Ad Tech Brand Safety Contextual Targeting
Ad Tech Brand Safety Contextual Targeting Measurement

This content was created by an IAB UK member

Members of IAB UK can contribute to the Member Vault. Log in to submit your content.

Both advertisers and high-quality publishers benefit when brand safety and suitability strategies are implemented correctly, and responsible media practices are embraced, writes Oracle's Lawrence Grieve

Brand reputation is more important - and delicate - than ever. Your customers care about your values and business practices and will leave you for another brand if they believe your business values don’t align with their own. This puts advertisers in a tight spot, requiring them to balance two primary responsibilities: Taking a stand on issues that are important to their partners and customers while also delivering results that drive growth.

Implementing brand safety and brand suitability strategies is one of the most impactful things advertisers can do to find this balance and protect their brand reputation. However, advertisers are doing themselves and their brands a disservice if they lump the two together without distinguishing between brand safety standards and brand suitability standards and what each means to their business.

While brand safety and brand suitability go hand in hand, they are fundamentally different strategies with different goals.

What is brand safety?

Brand safety is avoiding unsafe advertising environments to protect brand reputation. It’s achieved by blocking those environments from appearing in advertisers’ bids, or as a last line of defence, by collapsing the creative when the post-bid environment is detected as unsafe. This is foundational to your advertising strategy and prevents your brand from appearing next to offensive content.

In the past, advertisers executed brand-safe strategies with keyword and URL blocklists. While this approach accomplishes the primary goal of avoiding incompatible publishers, the lack of nuance creates missed opportunities and can heavily impact both scale and performance of the campaign. You may be able to omit certain publishers or unsafe corners of the internet, but that doesn’t mean all safe content is suitable for your brand and your audience.

The use of blunt tools, such as blocking all News, can end up defunding high-quality journalism from independent publishers. It also risks blocking large swathes of DE&I content that may resonate strongly with your customers, as well as align with your brand values.

That’s where a brand suitability strategy can improve performance.

What is brand suitability?

Brand suitability builds on brand safety by displaying advertising in the right environments to the right audience. It involves targeting contextually relevant content based on a deeper understanding of that content and your audience. Context is critical here. It allows advertisers to identify areas that appeal to their audience that may have otherwise been missed.

For example, reputable news sites such as The Economist or even The Wall Street Journal may publish a featured study on global crime statistics using keywords that have a negative connotation. Another example: Entertainment news that includes an action movie review depicting violent scenes. While a story on global crime or an action movie review may include negative keywords, the actual content is high-quality and valuable to a specific audience. Simply blocking websites based on keywords without considering the word’s meaning within the context of the content would cut advertisers off from a possible revenue stream and a respectable publishing partner.

Contextual intelligence can help. Contextual intelligence adheres to the new GARM (Global Alliance for Responsible Media) suitability framework to enhance brand safety and brand suitability, increase reach and help advertisers follow responsible media best practices.

How responsible media practices help brands align strategy, safety, & suitability

Effective brand safety and brand suitability strategies only work when brands use responsible media practices. These practices help prevent negative associations between your brand and untrustworthy publishers while also demonstrating how much your brand cares about its audience (not to mention the population at large).

Responsible media practices steer brands - and their budgets - away from low-quality or predatory publishers in addition to helping advertisers avoid the surge of disinformation being spread online. The benefits of these practices are twofold: First, ensuring that ads are placed in media that shares your brand values improves performance and bolsters brand reputation. Secondly, responsible media practices support publishers that operate with integrity and responsibility while avoiding harmful or malicious content and potentially false information.

These three concepts - brand safety, brand suitability, and responsible media practices - are the pillars of a successful advertising strategy. 

Both advertisers and high-quality publishers benefit when brand safety and suitability strategies are implemented correctly, and responsible media practices are embraced.

By Lawrence Grieve, Product Manager, Oracle Moat

Oracle Advertising & CX

The Internet Advertising Bureau (IAB) is the trade association for online advertising.

Posted on: Monday 26 September 2022