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What is Brand Safety and why does it matter?

Written by Scott Crumpler on Thursday November 8, 2018

Over the past few years, as more and more companies have fully adopted "digital first" strategies to promote their brands, it's become increasingly clear that digital advertising opens up a new world of threats to a company's image.  The kind of content your ads appear next to or in-stream with can have a very real effect on consumers' reaction to your brand.

Earlier this year, Unilever CMO, Kieth Weed, said, "Trust is everything for a brand.  A brand without trust is merely a product," and he was absolutely right.  Small business owners might not even realize it, but they actually know this more intuitively than larger companies, if they've experienced any success at all.  Why? Because the relationship between a small business and its customers is often more intimate, and those relationships are founded at some level upon trust.

Your brand may be smaller, but you live and die by it.

Think about it.  You offer a product or service-- maybe online or maybe just in your own community-- and your reputation is every bit as important as what you offer.  If that reputation is damaged in any way, it's very hard and very expensive for a small company to recover.  And certain kinds of damage simply can't be undone.  Smart business owners know this well, and they guard their company's image and reputation fiercely.

In the age of digital marketing, brands aren't safe by default.

In the "old days" of print, radio, and tv advertising, you could be fairly certain you knew exactly what kind of content you were associating your business with by running advertising in it, because you chose individual publications, broadcasts, and programming where your ad would run.  For example, if you didn't want your business to be associated with a particular kind of content (be it adult-themed or otherwise objectionable) you simply wouldn't run an ad in a publication like that.

With the advent of the digital age of marketing comes more affordable, more measurable, and more targetable advertising opportunities, BUT that comes with new dangers.  Digital content where ads are displayed is now almost never produced exclusively by the platform where that content is published.  Facebook doesn't create content; it simply provides a place for users to do that.  YouTube doesn't make its own videos; its content is made by millions of users.  So how can you be sure your digital ads aren't running next to content you wouldn't necessarily want associated with your brand?  That's where the notion of Brand Safety comes in.

Brand Safety is about protecting your image in digital advertising

Digital ad technology is getting better at controlling and monitoring the content where ads are delivered, and that's the good news.  The bad news?  The ad industry still has a very long way to go before small businesses can stop worrying about where their ads are being displayed.  And the answer isn't to avoid digital advertising.  As a small business owner in 2018, you would do that at great peril.  The answer is to be informed and to understand the risks as you put together a digital strategy to promote your brand.

Digital ad platforms from Facebook, Google, and Twitter can be used to great effect by small businesses, and there are many premium digital ad publishers that present opportunities as well.  But if you can imagine a type of content where you wouldn't want viewers to see your ad-- and associate your business with that content-- then you need to take Brand Safety seriously, because the content you imagine almost certainly exists.

Brightwork Creative Media can manage your digital marketing campaigns across multiple ad platforms and develop a marketing strategy that protects your brand.  Contact us to learn more about how we can help.