The following is the first 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.

Today, brand suitability is a cornerstone for digital advertisers. As a result, trusted news publishers are justifiably concerned about the proper monetization of their content. The concern is even greater during a time when the news is dominated by a rapidly changing event, such as the coronavirus crisis, which is associated with illness and fatalities. During these moments, publishers fear that an over-reliance on keyword blocking, for example, could result in demonetizing valuable information.


This concern was typified in a recent report by The New York Times, in which IAS, a DoubleVerify competitor, proudly revealed that they had “blocked the ‘coronavirus’ keyword 38.4 million times.” According to IAS, so many brands “blocked coronavirus that it has actually created pricing opportunities for advertisers.” In hearing those numbers, it is no wonder publishers are concerned.


At DV, we believe in the value of trusted news content. Last year, a Verizon Media study found that consumers are more likely to view brands favorably if they advertise on trusted news sites. In the fake news era, trusted news publishers are critical sources for information. This is especially the case in a crisis, where disinformation is often more likely to be shared than a genuine news article.


With that in mind, we feel compelled to speak out. Historically, DV has served as a neutral partner, providing technology and data to help brands and agencies determine content and context suitability for their needs. After all, every brand has its own unique positioning, its own target audience and its own set of brand values. The brand suitability protections that they enable should reflect those specific conditions.


However, for all of us, the coronavirus challenge is a unique news incident. It will not simply “go away.” Instead, it will continue to be a key focus for trusted news publishers as they do the critically important work of keeping the public informed with reliable, accurate information. Support of trusted news at the time of a global health pandemic is something we want all brands to strongly consider.


Today we are providing additional guidance to our advertising partners on ways they can do that. Our goal is to ensure that they adapt their brand suitability strategies accordingly during the coronavirus pandemic while supporting trusted news. Across our customer base, we are recommending consideration of the following strategies:


  • Content Classification – Brands should consider exempting trusted news publishers from our “Natural Disaster” content classification category.
  • Keyword Blocklists – Advertisers should also consider exempting trusted news providers from coronavirus-related keyword blocklists.
  • Exception Lists – Finally, brands should strongly consider adding trusted news site homepages and section pages (National, Health, etc.) to their DV page exception lists. Page exception lists allow a brand’s ads to run irrespective of the brand suitability settings applied to the rest of their media plan. This is especially useful for programmatic buys and on high-volume entry pages where the consumer associates the brand with the news publication more than the dynamic and aggregated context of the content on the page.


In general, we encourage all brands to advertise across trusted news sites as broadly as possible, unless there is a direct connection between a news incident and their brand. At the end of the day, if a brand is advertising on the nightly news during the coronavirus crisis or the front page of a major newspaper, then The New York Times homepage is no different and should be supported.


Joshua Lowcock, Global Brand Safety Officer at UM, a DoubleVerify customer, supports this approach and has worked with clients to remove coronavirus-related restrictions, delivering messaging in these environments with appropriate for-the-time creative, so that publishers can continue to keep the public informed.


At DV, we are proud of the work that we do, and will continue to take the lead in supporting advertisers, agencies and publishers during this unique challenge.


Read Part 2 in the series here.


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