Should Brand Safety Come at the Expense of Publisher Revenue?

The emergence of anxiety-inducing contents justifies advertisers’ desire to ensure that their ads are delivered in controlled environments. Advertising performance is also key. Advertising appreciation is greater when campaigns are delivered in quality contexts. It is understandable that brands might want to protect their distribution frameworks and make sure that their content is not associated with negative news.

When advertisers draw keyword lists that are too restrictive, it protects them from sensitive distribution contexts but impacts publishers’ advertising revenues. By trying to be as cautious as possible, advertisers will choose keywords to ensure that their ads appear in environments suitable to their brand. This can generate very large blocking lists and thus decrease inventory monetization if too many editorial contexts are excluded from the distribution frameworks.

By establishing increasingly large keyword blocking lists, which act more as a repellent than as a targeting technique, advertisers are potentially depriving themselves of quality inventories. Publishers are beginning to take a stand, following the example of Vice Media Group, which in 2019 called on advertisers to review their brand safety strategy after showing that most blocking lists were aimed at content dedicated to diversity and inclusion: “After observing this, VICE made the decision to no longer block the list of 25 keywords and expressions related to diversity, including words such as Muslim, transgender, refugee, or interracial,” points the press release.

From Brand Safety to Brand Suitability

While publishers need to provide a “brand safe” environment for advertisers, the essence of a news site is to cover the news. If these are unfavorable, certain contents will be abandoned by the advertisers. Instead of resorting to an avoidance strategy by blocking certain keywords, advertisers must challenge the relevance of the delivery context and make sure that their advertising message matches the editorial content. A keyword used out of context has little meaning.

Using semantic analysis and targeting solutions that are necessary to move from keyword logic to brand suitability logic is also a good strategy. They offer the possibility for publishers to value the “right” placements and thus make the best use of their inventories while having control over them.

The rise of these new technologies, mostly made possible by the democratization of artificial intelligence, offers many possibilities whose limits will always be pushed further.

New Models to Implement

Should we question the words in the keyword lists and look for more contextual solutions?

It is complicated for an advertiser to make sure that their advertising message is delivered in a 100% controlled environment in adequacy with their values. Using hyper-contextualized solutions based on semantics could be a good course of action. This approach to targeting is the most accomplished and nuanced today. Indeed, semantic intelligence can fully understand the editorial context of a web page and its (positive or negative) associated sentiments. The Machine Learning algorithms behind this technology can process an exponential volume of data and offer hyper-contextualized targeting. By associating semantic data with the automation of purchasing and sales processes, it is now possible to optimize the delivery context by analyzing and filtering content and associated themes beforehand.

The brand suitability approach is sufficient not to punish either advertisers or publishers and is a solid alternative to exclusion lists. Preserving delivery contexts while maintaining the economic balance of news websites is a complex issue that concerns all players in the advertising industry, not just advertisers and publishers. Concrete and easily operable solutions are beginning to emerge, and semantic intelligence is one of them.