Jun 06, 2019 Categories: Brand Communications Tags: Brand Visibility, Social Media

brand safety

Nobody wants their brand associated with the wrong messaging or content. As fake news continues to proliferate online, brand safety has become a prominent issue that is top of mind for companies and communication professionals alike. In February 2019 alone, major brands including Nestle, Epic Games, and McDonalds paused their YouTube advertising over concerns regarding their advertising being shown next to objectionable and inappropriate content.

According to a recent study by DoubleVerify, brand safety violations increased by as much as 25% in 2018. This increase was aided by the rise in fake news, which is 70% more likely to be shared than genuine stories. As the threat continues to rise, brands must be more vigilant in controlling how and where their content is shown to avoid brand safety violations.

A major factor in this is the automated buying and selling of online advertising. By relying on AI and advanced algorithms for the ad buying process; marketers have relinquished knowledge of where their ads are being placed. This has led to a substantial increase in ad-fraud, wasted ad spend, and most importantly brand safety violations. Despite concerns, programmatic advertising is expected to account for 86.3% of all digital display ads by 2020 according to eMarketer.com.

A misplaced ad here and there may not sound like a big deal, but the impact on consumer trust is great. A recent study sponsored by automaker BMW, found that consumer perception of brand quality declines by seven times when exposed to the unsafe content and that they are 50 percent less likely to recommend that brand.


Despite the significant advancements made in AI’s ability to catch and prevent brand safety violations, coupled with new regulation and fervent push from publishers to make their platforms safer for brands, the threat remains.

The solution to this is simple; shift the focus of your communications strategy from advertising to media relations. A strong media relations approach is not prone to the same brand-safety risks that advertising is and offers a number of benefits that even the best advertising fails to capture.

Media relations helps build brand awareness and reputation. Unlike advertising, media relations goals and objectives are underpinned by the fact that consumers place more trust in people who are not employed by the brand. In fact, according to Cision, only 47 percent of people trust the ads that appear alongside search results, compared to the 67 percent that trust online reviews. From this we can see consumer sentiment and where they put their trust is shifting. Consequently, third-party endorsements are essential in establishing a reputation and building trust with your target audience. You may be thinking, “this is all well and good, but how does it address brand safety?”

As noted above, programmatic advertising often falls into a black hole with neither the company nor the agency knowing where their advertisements are shown. With media relations, you know exactly where your content is going to be shown. In addition, strong media relations campaigns give you more control over the narrative surrounding your business in the public and as such, can allow you to reinforce the message and brand image you are trying to build in a controlled environment. You may be wondering now, “what makes media outlets safe? Isn’t it possible a published article will still get shown next to adverse or objectionable content?”

Unlike social media platforms, news media outlets “publishers” are held to a higher standard under the eyes of the law. Although there is no single body of law that relates exclusively to publishing, there are many areas of law that makes use of variation on the concept, such as copyright, defamation, contempt of court, and so on that form the basis of publishing law. These laws provide guiding (yet loose) framework of principles that publishers must adhere to avoid illegal repercussions. This does not by any means eliminate brand safety risks, but the risk is greatly reduced.

Consequently, despite expansive reach and ROI that advertising promises, it continues to be subject to brand safety violations. While media relations, doesn’t eliminate brand safety violations, it greatly reduces the risk, while building reputation of brand, and consequently consumer trust.

– Cooper Zajac

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