The coronavirus pandemic is having a deeper impact on advertising than the Great Recession of 2008, according to 74 percent of media planners, buyers and brands who spoke with the Interactive Advertising Bureau (IAB)*. Amidst a complex, rapid news cycle, advertisers are concerned that the content emerging may be misaligned with their core values.

But there are ways for brands to confidently advertise while supporting quality news coverage and growing their presence. At the IAB’s recent Brand Academy event, “Balancing Scale with Safety,” DV’s Chief Client Officer, Karen Gross, offered insight into the evolution of brand suitability; brand suitability tools; and best practices to stay protected without sacrificing scale.


1. Understand the Evolution of Brand Suitability

Brand suitability is at the core of a brand’s values. It’s critical that a brand’s ads not appear in the context of/or adjacent to unsuitable content. But as Karen Gross explains, outside of clearly inappropriate content such as hate speech, most content is neither all good nor all bad. Brand suitability is unique to each brand.

How Brand Suitability Supports Growth

There is  no one-size-fits-all approach to brand suitability, and Gross says using blunt instruments such as avoiding or blocking all news or certain sites may not be appropriate and can lead to missed opportunities. For example, the content on Cosmopolitan might be perfect to reach makeup buyers, but it might be inappropriate for family-friendly brands. Brand suitability allows brands to have the confidence and flexibility to run on nuanced content.


2. Learn About the Tools Available to Achieve Brand Suitability and Scale

There are many tools advertisers can use to achieve the protection they need while maintaining scale.

As Gross explains, DV helps advertisers create a brand safety profile by providing the latest industry tools and resources that offer comprehensive coverage specific to each brand.

What’s in a Brand Suitability Toolkit
  • Inclusion/exclusion lists allow advertisers to either target or avoid certain publishers.
  • Semantic-driven avoidance categories provide extensive controls across brand suitability concerns such as hate speech and adult content. These sophisticated categories look at the context of the page to differentiate between topics such as “gun control” vs. “gun violence.”
  • Keyword lists are used to avoid breaking news or keywords that are particularly sensitive to an individual brand and may not be covered in the semantic categories.
  • Exceptions enhance a brand’s safety profile by excluding trusted news sites, apps — and even individual pages — from avoidance category coverage.


3. Actively Review Brand Suitability Programs with Key Best Practices

To stay up-to-date in the fast-paced news cycle, Gross suggests brands adopt five best practices.

Brand Suitability Best Practices
  • Understand and establish clear brand suitability guidelines.
  • Constantly ask key questions such as, “Is there content that only our brand would want to avoid?”
  • Leverage and recognize the purpose of each tool to refine strategy.
  • Don’t avoid all news. Instead, work with trusted news sources containing content that aligns with the brand’s values.
  • Work closely and communicate with verification providers that will support unique suitability preferences.


It Is Possible to Have the Best of Both Worlds — Scale and Protection

Although today’s complicated news cycle presents challenges, it does not mean advertisers have to choose between protection and scale. With the right toolkit, advertisers can strike a harmonious balance between brand safety and reach.

To learn more, watch the recording of IAB Brand Academy: Balancing Scale with Brand Safety. Or explore DV’s four-part series on brand suitability that discusses supporting news amidst the coronavirus crisis, using keyword lists effectively, understanding avoidance and determining suitability settings.

The views expressed in this post are that of the individual making them, and not necessarily of DoubleVerify. In addition, all links to non-DoubleVerify websites are the property of their respective owners and DoubleVerify assumes no responsibility for the content therein.


* IAB, “Coronavirus Ad Spend Impact: Buy-Side”


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