“Data-Driven Thinking” is written by members of the media community and contains fresh ideas on the digital revolution in media.
Today’s column is written by Orchid Richardson, VP of global partnerships and product marketing at the IAB.
2020’s messy complexity gave new meaning to words that previously felt benign – “corona” and “virus,” or “shutdown” – and ignited a new conversation around brand suitability.
2021 will continue some very difficult and healthy discussions as we ring in a new White House administration, and remain focused on addressing social injustice – so it has never been more important for brands to reevaluate their brand suitability strategies.
IAB has compiled some best practices and recommendations for both brand safety and brand suitability. Here are some ways to maintain successful brand equity during these challenging times with an approach we call the 3 Rs – Revisit, Reset and Repeat.
Revisit: Know your tools
Maximize your toolkit
Modern brand suitability strategies go well beyond keyword lists. Yes, they are still valuable, but are best served when applied in conjunction with other tools to build a comprehensive strategy that allows for fast-acting responsiveness. Take the time to revisit all the new tools at your brand’s disposal.
Strive for precision
You must understand context to implement a successful brand suitability strategy. Understanding the intended meaning of an article and its author is critical to provide the necessary data to determine advertising opportunities. Learn from 2020. We heard stories of broad brand blocking terms such as “black” and “shot,” however blocking the word “shot” essentially eliminates ad inventory across sports-related web pages featuring basketball, hockey, soccer and more, which risks losing the high-frequency, fully engaged sports fan audience segment.
Learn from 2020 – establish a scenario planning cadence
Ongoing business reviews are mandatory. Even post-election, there is no shortage of ongoing, complex issues to consider. We can hope for a calmer tomorrow, but nonetheless, brands must establish a prepared, proactive, problem-solving strategy, which considers multiple options for how current events may impact your business.
Reset: Know the ad environment
Utilize trusted news sources
Identify your audience's trusted sources. Make sure to allow for page-specific URLs such as the homepage of sites your audiences read regularly and trust. IAB research reveals that news content is brand safe and improves consumer trust – 84% of consumers indicate trust is neutral or increases for advertisers messaging on news sites, as a result of their presence.
Don’t run from a crisis – engage where appropriate
Now more than ever before, you must determine if your brand stands with, against or on the sidelines when social issues are the lead story. Consumers want to know where their favored brands stand. For instance, as a brand, are you an active participant in Black Lives Matter, CDC Compliance, Climate Change or LGBTQIA+ issues? Lean into the issues that represent your brand values. Doing nothing need not be the modus operandi of brands anymore.
Know what you are paying for
The programmatic ecosystem isn’t perfect. Sometimes, ad verification settings do not deliver the desired outcomes. For example, pre-bid safety controls are designed to filter out content that doesn’t meet an advertiser’s safety and suitability preferences. However, in many instances blocked ad opportunities still require payment. Combining pre-bid filtering with URL analysis can reduce brand risk while preventing avoidable payments.
Adjust creative as needed
As 2020 comes to an end, one major lesson learned is the need to pay attention to the intricacies of your messaging. Everyone loves to laugh but “reading the room” is a skillset brands benefit from depending on the mood of the country, and more specifically, your target audience. Brands never want to appear tone-deaf or out of touch with the current plight of the audience they are trying to reach. IAB research confirms the importance of tone when advertising within news content. In fact, informative and helpful tones work best across serious/breaking news, opinion/point of view, and lighter/more entertaining news content.
Repeat: Know what is next
Never stop asking questions
Constantly evaluate your guidelines to incorporate current events and news by revisiting your tool settings, resetting for current events, repeating as news cycles shift and evolve. This last year proves that prioritizing brand suitability is a functional standard operating procedure that, while evergreen by nature, requires ongoing attention.