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Misinformation and deception abound on the internet. There are several tricks available for consumers to fall for, such as conspiracy theories and phony tales. Though false information is frequently outside the control of your business, it may still be detrimental to your brand when someone falls for a disinformation campaign. Maintaining consumer trust and safeguarding your company’s reputation are two benefits of brand safety.

Nobody wants the wrong kind of messaging to be connected with their brand or to tarnish its image. If you don’t put brand safety measures in place, your company can be in danger. We define brand safety and provide the finest brand safety procedures in this guide.

What is Brand Safety? 

“The practice of protecting a brand’s reputation and keeping it from appearing in unsafe environments” is the definition of brand safety. One way to practice brand safety is to stay away from advertising next to offensive or divisive content. More than $2.5 billion in advertising revenue is sent to publishers of misinformation and disinformation, according to analysis from NewsGuard and Comscore. This means that marketers unintentionally promote propaganda, bogus health claims, and electoral misinformation.

The IAB claims that part of this entails offering a secure environment for ad trading.

This lowers the possibility of an advertisement being misplaced and preserves a brand’s reputation. In addition, funding for services and materials that violate copyright will no longer be provided. However, the reality is far more nuanced—just like most things in life.

“Malgorithms” – when pages and ads misalign

Satirical news magazine, Private Eye, has a notorious “malgorithms” column. Malgorithms are examples of ads where the contextual meaning between a page and a display ad is misaligned.

For example, take this malgorithm drawn from The Guardian website. The content on the page is a profile of the terrorist behind the 2016 attack on the British parliament; the ad placed next to it is for The Guardian’s own dating website. The headline for the Guardian’s story: “Khalid Masood a violent criminal who was regularly on the move”. The accompanying ad’s call to action: “Enjoy the journey…Take a right turn at Guardian Soulmates”. This juxtaposition of ads next to content can be humorous, other times it can be in bad taste and leave a brand exposed.

No location is immune. And these unfortunate juxtapositions are not conducive to effective advertising.

Fake news!

Contextual understanding is huge when revenue and reputation rest upon the quality of ad placements. Take the issue of fake news. Unless you’ve been under a rock, you’ll know it’s been on the minds of marketers the world over. But why does it happen? And why should a marketer care?

For a start, your ad could be funding someone engaged in blatant fraud. Netting people via social media to click through to a site via a tantalizing headline. If you pay no attention to where your ad is, your brand could be next to false articles and malicious allegations. The last place a pizza chain wants to find its ad is next to a fake news story like Pizzagate which went viral in 2016.

It’s an issue that has led to Reddit pulling programmatic advertising from conspiracy theory threads. While Google has updated its AdSense policy. All moves stemming from brands not wanting to align with damaging “fake” content. AdSense now avoids websites that “misrepresent, misstate, or conceal information”.

Extremist sites

Moving along from the issue of fake news, there’s the specter of an ad on a site that hosts extremist views. A marketer’s nightmare is to find their brand associated with a hateful viewpoint. Let alone know that they funded said viewpoint through an ad! Again, whether, far left, far right, racist, sexist, or fundamentalist, a brand does not want to be next to content that damages it.

In particular, Google has come under a great deal of scrutiny. In fact, it was revealed that brands in the UK had inadvertently contributed over £250,000 to extremist sites in the past year.  

YouTube goes wrong

Satisfying brand safety is a pressing problem for streaming services, such as YouTube. In 2017, issues over brand advertising appearing next to inappropriate or extremist content surfaced. And it appears that these problems aren’t going away either…

In the past year, publications worldwide have unearthed fresh examples of brand safety scandals – resulting in companies such as Under Armour suspending advertising on the platform.

Bot Traffic

Fraudulent clicks represent a significant threat to brand safety. In fact, bad bots represented 21.8% of all traffic in 2017.

Bad bot traffic can mean numerous things for your brand. But most significantly, threatens your ROI and conversion metrics. The good news? Bot traffic has actually dropped since 2014 and with the rise in technologies to fight these fraudulent clicks, looks set to decline in the future too.

Publishers who offer a premium inventory are preferential. These tend to be safer locations for ad placement, but more expensive. The general gist is the lower you bid, the less premium (or more risky) the location your ad could find itself.

Programmatic advertising gets a bad rep as it is sometimes viewed as a way to offload low-value, remnant inventory. This type of trading happens in the open marketplace, where there’s a perceived lack of transparency.

Both brands and publishers are now moving toward more controlled environments. These include programmatic marketing platforms (PMPs), and programmatic direct deals. The truth is, that by focusing on quality rather than quantity, marketers can better reach their target audience.

How to Protect my Brand

It is crucial that you take precautions to safeguard your brand as a marketer. You can make sure that your brand is protected online by incorporating a brand safety check into your campaign strategy. Here are some steps you can do right now to safeguard the integrity of your brand.

  • Define what brand safety means for you

The IAB and other organizations have outlined the industry standard definition. But it is imperative you establish your own definition. This is important because brand safety, unlike other measurements, is subjective.

Take the list of toxic content mentioned earlier; what could be taboo for your brand may be fine for another. A gaming company may have very different contextual tolerances compared to a kid’s app producer.

  • Prioritise transparency

According to Bannerflow Product Owner, Björn Karlström, “you need to know where your banners are served. And you need to know where your money is spent in the ad tech chain”. Without this data, your media budget is out of control, you cannot make well-founded decisions, and you are susceptible to fraud.

Read Also: How to Find The Perfect Font and Font Combinations For Your Branding Assets

One way in which brands can take ownership over their media buying strategy is through in-house initiatives. Indeed, in the Bannerflow/Digiday State of In-housing report, increased transparency was ranked as the third biggest reason for decision-makers to move their marketing in-house.  

  • Choose a reputable programmatic provider or agency

Make sure you choose an agency or programmatic platform that you trust. It is one of the most important steps you can take to be certain of brand safety. Thus choosing a programmatic platform is critical. Brad Bender, VP of Product Management at Google suggests four questions when selecting:

  • How many inventory providers do you plan on using?
  • Where do you want your ads to show?
  • How serious are you about audience targeting?
  • What tools do you need to hit your goals
  • Opt for premium inventory

If brand safety is a priority for your brand, you should consider choosing premium inventory only. This option is more expensive than blind bidding, for example. But you will be making sure that your ads do not end up on unsafe domains or web pages.

  • Avoid blacklisted publishers

This might seem like an obvious one, but blacklisted published sometimes seem attractive. Particularly with their low prices and aggressive marketing. But by choosing a blacklisted publisher you are putting your brand safety in danger. Avoid.

  • Use insights to monitor campaigns in real-time

To increase the impact of your efforts, use real-time data to track where your ads are showing. If you find your brand compromised then take action in real-time. By using insights you can to change any settings or targeting associated with your campaign.

With heatmaps, it is also possible to monitor potential bot traffic on your ads. In fact, many bot clicks can be observed in the same spot every time. Recognizing these patterns, and taking action alongside an ad fraud detection partner can make a huge difference to the performance of your campaigns.

  • Utilize a campaign’s “negative target” or exclusions

Most programmatic publishers will allow you to exclude negative targets when you are setting up your campaign. For example, Facebook allows you to exclude pretty much anything and everything you want to avoid.

When setting up your campaigns, take your brand’s definition and start excluding harmful inventory. This is by no means a 100% fool-proof way to keep your brand safe. But it is one of the most proactive things that you can do to make sure your ads display only where you want them to.

  • Look at third-party data

If brand safety is of particular importance, then look at companies that offer third-party verification. These companies offer to check sites and pages before publishing. Ensuring your ads aren’t showing up on sites, pages, or before content that is unsafe.

What Can Harm a Brand?

Brand image and reputation translate to increased sales. If users find one negative article when searching for you, it could result in a loss of up to 22% of business. One of the most recent examples of the cost of a bad reputation may be seen here in the UK, with the Arcadia Group going bust just three years after CEO Phillip Green was embroiled in a pension scandal.

Below, we have detailed the three most common and avoidable sources of brand damage and how to avoid them.

  • Customer complaints

Many of us will have experienced occasions where we search for a brand to find trails of unhappy customers sharing their grievances. Understandably, it can be off-putting – and it is definitely not the image you want your brand to have. In the age of social media and digital, it is easier than ever for customers to share a complaint online. Unfortunately, these complaints often occur on the same channels prospective buyers may use to look you up.

Customer complaints can range in severity. It may start as a comment on one of your posts, before turning into a thread of posts between disgruntled customers. In some cases, the complaints may even be picked up by the press or even featured on consumer rights programs, such as Watchdog. If it gets to this stage, you risk potentially millions of people seeing it and consequently harboring negative associations of your brand.

The best possible way to avoid complaints tarnishing your brand reputation is to provide good service at all times. As businesses, our aim should always be to exceed expectations and offer an excellent experience. However, this is easier said than done, and, even with the most robust customer service approach, there will always be unhappy people or incidents that fall through the cracks.

When you do get a complaint, it is best to catch it early and respond appropriately. People often turn to social media when they struggle to get a response offline – so dealing with complaints via email and telephone will help to prevent those people from moving online.

  • Bad reviews

When you search a brand, the first things that come up are its entries on review sites. Upon searching ‘OlsenMetrix’, you can see our Google review rating comes up at the right-hand side, at the top of the page.

Similarly, it is common for entries on sites like Trustpilot and Trip Advisor to show up in the first results page when searching a brand. Many social media sites, such as Facebook, also incorporate reviews.

With review scores so prominent during searches and the fact reviews are now a vital stage of the consumer journey, you want them to show you in a favorable light. So, if a customer is searching for you and finding 1-star reviews, it’s not a great look for your brand.

Like online customer complaints, negative reviews often materialize when a customer feels it is the only way to be “heard”. By aiming to provide outstanding customer service and dealing with complaints before they reach the review sites, you can limit the number of reviews.

When negative reviews do surface, it is once again essential to respond swiftly and publicly. This includes being compassionate, offering to deal with the problem offline and taking appropriate action to remedy the situation.

If your score has slipped due to negative reviews, you need to build it back up. Of course, every brand’s dream is full star ratings, but four out of five stars or higher can be seen as extremely good.

To boost your scores, you need to get positive reviews. Invite verified buyers to leave a review on behalf of your brand, particularly if you know they have had a favorable experience. Some brands even incentivize reviews, such as entering people into a prize draw, which is worth considering if you struggle to get traction. However, if a customer has had an exceptional experience, they may be inclined to leave a review without prompting.

  • Empty searches

The customer journey is increasingly digital. Over 40% of consumers now complete their entire journey on mobile, from research to purchase. So, imagine doing an online search for a brand you’ve heard about to find… nothing.

With so much emphasis on digital, there is little excuse for any business not to be online. Customers want to connect with you online, so to stand a chance of being found and used, you need to be present.

Not having this presence will undoubtedly impact your reputation. If a customer knows nothing about you, how can they be expected to think favorably about your brand? Instead, an empty search could suggest that you aren’t a real business, that you’re untrustworthy or that you simply don’t care enough to give people necessary information. So, being online matters.

SEO, social media, web, digital PR and review sites are all tools in every company’s remit, helping them improve awareness, so it is crucial to take advantage of these and build a digital brand image. You don’t have to be high-tech: instead, just focus on promoting yourself online while delivering value to prospects.

Building an online presence will enable customers to discover you easily, providing them with smoother journeys and helping them to see positive results about you. So, they’ll become aware of you for all the right reasons.


Brand reputation matters. In a world where mistakes can go viral instantly, and customers are always watching, it is crucial to craft a favorable image that shows who you are, why you can be trusted, and why a customer should choose you.

By maintaining a good reputation, you will be able to reap the benefits over time, including a loyal customer base, sales generation, and positive sentiment. And, by understanding the common mistakes brands make, you can avoid irreversible, irreparable damage to your reputation.

About Author


MegaIncomeStream is a global resource for Business Owners, Marketers, Bloggers, Investors, Personal Finance Experts, Entrepreneurs, Financial and Tax Pundits, available online. egaIncomeStream has attracted millions of visits since 2012 when it started publishing its resources online through their seasoned editorial team. The Megaincomestream is arguably a potential Pulitzer Prize-winning source of breaking news, videos, features, and information, as well as a highly engaged global community for updates and niche conversation. The platform has diverse visitors, ranging from, bloggers, webmasters, students and internet marketers to web designers, entrepreneur and search engine experts.