Brand safety doesn’t concern me

Neil Cowling

Neil Cowling, Creative Development Director at Maple Street Creative, confesses that brand safety doesn't concern him.


I know it’s a hot topic at the moment, but it doesn’t worry me now and it probably won’t worry me in the future.

Why not? Because I work in audio advertising.

That’s not to say I don’t care about it - I do, but working in audio and worrying about brand safety is like living in London and worrying about volcano eruptions. Scary, and not nice for the people affected, but we can be grateful that it doesn’t directly affect us.

I’m not trying to be smug, but brand safety is less of an issue because planned digital audios ad largely run on:

a)The digital stream of a broadcast radio station
b)A music streaming platform like Spotify or Deezer
c)A podcast platform against a set vertical on an approved whitelist

Programmatic is making its way to audio and is currently used on Spotify, and via DAX, and with “A Million Ads” technology, the creative can even be dynamic. The creative possibilities of this are what drive audio nerds like me to be super excited about the next few years, as what used to be purely “radio” advertising moves closer and closer to matching the personalisation levels offered by digital media.

Radio stations, streaming services, and podcast platforms all have full control over their content. If you want to buy programmatically you can rest assured that the content’s been approved, or if you want more control, than advertisers can choose the precise music genre, podcast series, or radio stations to advertise on.

So, for those of us in audio, the term “brand safety” can still be used, but in lower-case letters, with a soft, creative emphasis. It’s about making sure that the client chooses the PERFECT environment for their brand: Do the subtleties of the brand’s tone of voice fit seamlessly with the platform, the radio station or the associated content? Are they speaking as effectively as possible to the perfect audience, not just a good one? 

There’s still some risk that, for instance, an ad for walk-in baths could appear next to some hard-core hip-hop, but the platforms and agencies, like Radioworks, should work together to make sure the plans and the algorithms guard against that scenario. 

Audio is an intimate, infinite blank canvas, speaking to people in unique, personal moments. So if you’re dreaming of a brilliant, creative, adored medium that gives you a break from worrying about brand safety, just close your eyes and open your ears. You’ll find it’s right here.

Written by

Neil Cowling

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