The following is the fourth piece of a four-part series by Matt McLaughlin, DoubleVerify COO, on the issue of brand suitability to help advertisers, technology partners and publishers better understand suitability technology and best practices during the coronavirus crisis.

Brand Suitability impacts all advertisers concerned with preserving brand reputation and the digital advertising industry at large. According to a recent DV/Harris Poll study, 87% of consumers believe that brands bear responsibility for ensuring their digital advertising runs beside content that is accurate, safe and trustworthy.


The coronavirus pandemic is a truly unique global public health crisis and news event. It’s impacting and changing the daily lives of people globally and driving significant news consumption for the foreseeable future. Continued support of news during this difficult time is something we encourage all brands to strongly consider, and we’ve made every effort to educate advertisers and their agencies on the specific settings they can employ to support trusted news publishers, while also safeguarding their brand. We’re working with leading industry bodies, including the Ad Council and Interactive Advertising Bureau (IAB) to extend the reach and impact of critical coronavirus response messaging, and amplify thought leadership and education. We’ve also made the full extent of our resources available to help our customers implement their desired changes.


In this installment of our blog series, we explore all of DV’s suitability settings in detail – bringing you up to speed on your brand suitability toolkit. Specifically, the piece addresses brand suitability throughout the media transaction – from pre-bid avoidance to post-bid monitoring and blocking, and provides detailed descriptions and use cases relating to DV’s comprehensive brand suitability tools and settings.


Determine Suitability Early On – During Bidding or Ad Selection


The preferred approach for both media buyers and sellers is to avoid the attempted delivery of an impression that is unsuitable for the brand during the ad selection process.


In the programmatic environment, that means pre-bid avoidance. Pre-bid avoidance operates before a programmatic bid is placed by analyzing data available in the bid request. It’s extremely fast, scalable and comes pre-integrated across all major DSPs. DV offers avoidance segments based on fraud, viewability and brand safety parameters.


In addition to stand-alone avoidance segments for categories of content like hate speech or adult content, DV has a unique offering called Authentic Brand Safety targeting. Authentic Brand Safety targeting allows brands to perfectly align their pre- and post-bid brand suitability criteria, creating a single segment that can be deployed across multiple buying platforms. Authentic Brand Safety targeting is the most advanced brand safety solution in the market today, offering heightened levels of advertiser protection and driving substantial gains in both operating efficiency and campaign performance. Not only does Authentic Brand Safety targeting ensure all the avoidance criteria for brand suitability are activated, it also honors the exceptions policies put in place by advertisers to extend reach to publications or pages they’re comfortable running on. For example, a buyer can avoid content in the Natural Disaster category generally while creating exceptions for major newspaper sites, apps or home pages to ensure they continue to bid on impressions from those trustworthy publications.


On direct deals, DV automatically communicates all of an advertiser’s brand suitability settings to any publisher on the media plan. This happens when a campaign is first set up and any time the suitability settings are modified during the campaign’s flight. Ideally a publisher would be able to match these suitability settings to information in their own ad selection engines to avoid attempting delivery of an impression opportunity to a brand that would find the content unsuitable.


DV is working to make this process even more automated for media sellers. We are currently running a Beta program with a limited number of publishers that injects brand suitability information directly into the publisher’s ad selection process in real-time, granting these decisioning engines direct access to suitability information that will aid in matching campaigns to impression opportunities before ad selection takes place.


Determining brand suitability early on – prior to matching a brand to an impression opportunity, is the ideal outcome for all parties. In the programmatic environment, pre-bid avoidance is the first step to achieving that match. It is worth noting that pre-bid avoidance relies on the accuracy of bid stream data that, at times, may be obfuscated, incomplete or inaccurate – rendering the decision less effective. The same risk occurs in direct deals, where a seller may not have all the necessary controls to match a brand’s suitability settings. As a result, it is important to use active controls like blocking and monitoring after an impression is delivered, to account for any shortcomings pre-bid.


Comprehensive Brand Suitability Settings


DV offers detailed controls that allow advertisers to customize their brand safety profile. These controls are designed to give advertisers the clarity and confidence they need to place their promotion into environments that both align with their campaign objectives and comply with their suitability standards. These settings are applied across web and mobile devices, on display and video formats, and across all buying platforms – including social. Advertisers have the flexibility to manage content adjacency based on a variety of attributes about the site, app, page and content, offering a range of controls applicable to particular use cases.


It is important to note that DV’s brand suitability settings are always deactivated as a default. Brands and their buying teams are required to individually activate settings, add keywords to their lists, or build their own app exclusion lists.


DV Toolkit and Use Cases
Tool: Inclusion and Exclusion Lists at the domain, subdomain and app level

Use Case: Enables a brand to align campaign delivery with their media targeting strategy – ensuring brand promotions only appear on sites and apps that have been included in their media plan and are designated as suitable overall.


Tool: Standard Brand Suitability Categories

Use Case: DV’s Semantic Science Engine, working in conjunction with human linguists and classification analysts, comprehensively evaluates content in over 40 languages and assigns it to over 75 standard brand suitability categories. These standard categories are available to all brands and provide controls across broad suitability concerns, like Adult Content and Hate Speech, as well as more narrow topics specific to certain brands, such as Aviation Disaster. DV also offers a unique Inflammatory News and Politics category that protects brands against fake news and highly-polarized political content.


Tool: Custom Brand Category

Use Case: Built in partnership with an advertiser, a Custom Brand Category operates similarly to our Standard Brand Suitability categories but is tailored to the sensitivities of a specific brand – such as negative corporate news, product recalls and news about personnel.


Tool: Keyword Blocklist

Use Case: Language-specific URL keyword blocklists allow brands to avoid web content based on headline keywords that appear in the URL to help them:

  • Avoid emerging negative content.
  • Increase avoidance precision on specific topics.
  • Block narrow, brand-specific concerns.

Please read Installment #2 in this blog series for more detail on keyword blocking.


Tool: Content Language

Use Case: DV offers suitability controls based on the language of the content for over 100 languages and dialects – allowing brands to enable reach and appropriately match language-specific creative.


Tool: Mobile App Controls

Use Case: DV provides mobile app suitability controls that allow the brand to determine which mobile apps are suitable and in line with the brand’s campaign objectives, based on User Reviews, Age Ratings and/or App Store Categories.

Common use cases include avoidance of apps with poor user reviews, matching target audience with the age rating of the app, or including store categories focused on specific types of content – like Entertainment or News & Magazines.

Flexible Controls to Maximize Reach

While brand suitability is primarily focused on protecting brand reputation, most advertisers agree that, in order to drive campaign effectiveness, they must balance protection with scale. DV has developed a suite of tools that give advertisers precise control over how their brand suitability settings are applied, enabling them to capitalize on appropriate opportunities and access premium placements on sites and apps.

  • Settings Activation: Activate brand suitability settings by campaign and partner. DV allows for different configurations of brand suitability settings to be activated on a per campaign basis or, within a campaign, by individual media seller on the media plan. This gives a brand flexibility to build and apply different configurations of brand suitability settings per seller.
  • Settings Configuration: Blocking vs. Monitoring. DV lets brands customize the post-bid behavior of their brand suitability settings. Settings may be activated for Blocking, which prevents the ad creative from being rendered, or for Monitoring, which allows the creative to be rendered but provides a report post-delivery on any impressions that fell outside of the brand’s suitability settings. DV advises its customers to activate the blocking control for settings that represent their most severe concerns and the monitoring control for settings that represent a lower reputational risk.
  • Settings Configuration: Site and App Exceptions. DV allows brands to identify exceptions for specific sites and mobile apps – essentially exempting these supply sources from a brand’s broader suitability controls. For example, a brand may wish to block celebrity gossip in general, but be comfortable appearing on specific publisher sites and apps with content typically assigned to that category.
  • Settings Configuration: Page Exceptions. Similar to Site and App Exceptions, this feature enables a brand to override suitability controls on individual pages they designate. Page Exceptions was specifically designed for high-volume entry pages, like news homepages – which are typically premium placements and experience high traffic volume. These pages also often include a variety of aggregated topics, making them more likely to conflict with a brand’s suitability settings. Adding trusted publication homepages to the Page Exception list lets brands appear on these premium placements, associate with strong publisher brands and significantly increasing scale and reach.


Ad Rendering Controls: Blocking and Filtering


At DoubleVerify, a key component of our service is post-bid blocking. DV’s blocking technology provides one of the most effective means to safeguard brand equity and ensure ads are delivered in the proper geography, to a valid fraud-free device, and in a brand suitable environment.


The blocking function executes just before an ad is rendered on a device after the ad has already been effectively purchased. This typically occurs when the brand has won a programmatic auction or, on direct buys, when the ad was selected by the publisher’s ad server for delivery. DV blocking measurement code inspects all characteristics of an ad impression in real time, including the device, impression geography, delivery placement and surrounding content. These characteristics are compared with the settings established by the brand and trafficked in the DV system. When the impression meets these standards, the ad is “Allowed” and the creative is rendered to the screen. Alternately, when the impression does not meet the brand’s standards, the ad is “Blocked” and the brand’s creative is not rendered; in this case, the ad slot is replaced with alternative content.


Read more about DV’s post-bid blocking capabilities here.


Pre-serve Video filtering – currently in beta – is an advanced, industry-first solution to add an additional protection layer for all video impressions. Post-bid blocking on video impressions requires the creative to execute in a VPAID environment in order for any post-bid video blocking solution to prevent creative rendering. Pre-serve video filtering adds a preemptive layer server-side to further control video delivery on all video impressions.


Pre-serve Filtering collects data from the client’s ad request, runs it through DV’s advanced fraud and brand suitability filters, and makes a decision to either continue the ad delivery or filter it server-side. When the ad request is filtered, an empty ad response is sent back to the client, allowing publishers to quickly recuperate their inventory through their normal delivery mechanisms. Because no video creative ever reaches the video player on the device, no tracking pixels ever fire, no impressions are recorded and media budget is not spent for filtered ads.


Because everything runs server-side, pre-serve video filtering is widely enabled across all VAST traffic, regardless of VPAID support. In other words, it works across all device types, including CTV, mobile app, mobile web, and desktop traffic.


Pre-serve filtering will be available for all video campaigns using the DV Video OmniTag (DV’s VAST tag). It does not require any integrations and can be enabled together with pre-bid avoidance and post-bid blocking to get complete brand suitability protection on all video impressions.


Transparent Analytics & Reporting


DV provides detailed reporting and analysis in DV Pinnacle®, the industry’s first unified service and analytics platform. The reporting provides detailed information and corrective action recommendations for all brand suitability filtering, blocking and monitoring activities, and includes data and metrics about which keywords, content categories, sites, apps or other brand suitability settings were in conflict with the attempted or actual impression delivery.


DV’s reporting offers numerous analysis options including highly configurable views, triggered threshold reports across over 200+ KPIs, and the ability to have data integrated into third-party systems.


DV Pinnacle® is transparent for all parties to the media transaction. Every seller on the media plan has access to the same level of data, the same tools, and the same details about content categorization, app age ratings and other assessments that may have impacted brand suitability evaluation. Providing buyers and sellers with symmetrical information is critical to building trust within the digital advertising ecosystem.


Brand Suitability Settings Recommendations for Advertisers During the COVID-19 Crisis


DoubleVerify is an independent, third-party media measurement provider. DV does not preemptively activate any brand suitability settings or set defaults that impact distribution of media spend across sellers. We know that advertisers and publishers value our independence and the system we have built – empowering each individual brand to set suitability and media plan controls for themselves, and ensuring all media sellers are given equal opportunity.


In recognition of the critical role that trusted news publishers play in disseminating vital information during the current health crisis, DV has made every effort to educate advertisers on the specific settings they can employ to support trusted news publishers, while also safeguarding their brand. These settings configuration recommendations include:

  • Page Exception Lists – Brands should strongly consider adding trusted news site homepages and section pages (National, Health, etc.) to their DV page exception lists.
  • Content Classification/Keyword Avoidance Lists – Brands should strongly consider exempting trusted news publishers from the “Natural Disaster” content classification category, as well as coronavirus-related keywords on their keyword blocklist.


Throughout this four-part series, we have endeavored to provide you with clear and comprehensive guidance on DV’s brand suitability tools – from the role each plays in protecting brand reputation, to recommendations on how best to leverage these tools during the coronavirus crisis. As always, our goal is to promote a sustainable ad ecosystem that supports advertisers and publishers alike. Let’s Build a Better Industry®!


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