Quick Q&A - Brand Safety

Posted on Tuesday 01 February 2022

Read our quick Q&A all about brand safety.

Published April 2017

What is it? 

It’s all about keeping brands safe when they advertise online, not letting their ads end up next to inappropriate or illegal content. If as an industry, we all stick to proper processes we can make a safe environment for ad trading. That way, we can minimise the risk of misplacement, protect the reputation of brands, and ultimately stop the unethical funding of content and services which infringe copyright.

Who does it affect? 

It could potentially affect any brand that is advertising online, and so it's a big risk for the industry. Ultimately, advertising contributes to the provision of free content and services online, so if brands decide to reduce their online advertising, the free content we all enjoy could come to an end and the future of the internet would shift dramatically away from its democratic foundation. Advertisers want their ads to promote and position their brands in the best and most relevant places, so if any of their ads are seen in the wrong place it could have a detrimental impact on their reputation. At the same time, its worth remembering that content that works for one brand might be totally wrong for another. 

How is the IAB working with industry to address this?

The IAB firmly believes brands should be safe when advertising online – this is a core element of the advertiser/media owner relationship. No one in the industry wants ads to end up against inappropriate content.

Since 2005, the IAB has been leading the mission to create a safe environment for brands in collaboration with other bodies, for example through the now retired IASH initiative and the current DTSG through JICWEBS (See below).

When brands buy inventory against user-generated content, they should use the tools available to give themselves full control of where their ads are placed and it’s worth remembering that chasing low price CTR is not necessarily in the interests of advertising on quality content.

Specifically, there are two key steps that brands should follow:

i) Before buying media, only work with partners that offer control. Check out the list for media platforms that have been accredited by the Digital Trading Standards Group (DTSG) which is a cross-industry initiative under the governance of the Joint Industry Committee for Web Standards (JICWEBS), led by the IAB, ISBA, IPA and AOP.  

ii) Avoid any possibility of your adverts ending up on pirate or copy-infringing sites by referring to The City of London Police Intellectual Property Crime Unit (PIPCU) who oversee the ‘Infringing Website List’ (IWL). Any brand can ask their media partners to use the IWL to exclude pirate sites from their media buying. Suppliers are pre-vetted by PIPCU and given access to a live list updated constantly.

When will things change?

When the whole industry works together to effectively check the quality of content and sticks to agreed processes for ad trading. The IAB have a deep collaboration with JICWEBS and their certification programme is actively and continually identifying those that meet industry standards. There is no doubt that digital advertising is a unique platform, but it is in the interests of the entire industry to work hard and ensure suppliers either get their processes audited and approved, or in the case of buyers, that they ask the right questions up front. 

Where can I find out more?

Find out which companies are DTSG-accredited before buying media here, or for general queries about the DTSG contact info@iabuk.com.

To ensure your advertising isn’t on pirate sites, get a free, confidential ‘health check’ from PIPCU by contacting DC Salway on [email protected]. And for more details about the IWL contact [email protected].

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