Brand Safety Institute Aims To Smarten Up The Digital Ad Industry

It’s safe to say the ad industry has a thing for trade orgs.

On Wednesday, a new one – the Brand Safety Institute (BSI) – opened its doors with the mission of helping advertisers, agencies and publishers get smart about managing brand safety issues.

The group was co-founded by Neal Thurman, who was also recently appointed director of the Coalition for Better Ads, and Mike Zaneis, president and CEO of the Trustworthy Accountability Group (TAG).

BSI plans to accomplish its goal through a certification program designed to train and accredit ad industry execs on the finer points of brand safety, such as ad quality, how to vet partners, ad placement and content analysis and understanding ad fraud and malware.

The details are still being hammered out, including how much the training will cost. But registrants will likely take a day or so of online training comprised of roughly hourlong modules.

Every so often, they’ll need to top up their expertise with a little continuing professional ed. The first courses should kick off in the fall.

At the end of round one, participants will receive professional certification that they know their brand safety stuff.

But who needs another seal? Companies are already scrambling to score accreditation from the Media Rating Council, TAG, the Digital Advertising Alliance and the Interactive Advertising Association’s LEAN program – just to name a few.

This is different, Zaneis said. It’s about training individuals, a bit like the “certified information privacy professional” certificate created by the International Association of Privacy Professionals (IAPP), which helped inspire BSI.

“The IAPP saw a need for organizations to better understand data and privacy, and now, over time, you have something like 10,000 certified privacy professionals out there,” Zaneis said. “Ultimately, we want to create an army of hundreds or eventually even thousands of certified brand safety officers.”

But even if every organization doesn’t end up with a John Montgomery (he’s GroupM’s global EVP of brand safety), the hope is to inculcate companies – everyone from legal to sales to ad ops – with the information they need to start tackling ad quality and brand safety issues in their day-to-day jobs.

“There’s potential value across multiple departments,” Zaneis said. “In every meeting where someone is trying to sell their inventory or services, brand safety is now part of that RFP – it’s part of every contract.”

And that’s a good thing, he said. So is getting everyone in the supply chain on the same page. The industry hasn’t coalesced around a definition of exactly what constitutes brand safety, and that has caused confusion in trying to combat related issues.

“By marrying the various perspectives together – buyer, seller and strategic partners – we can help everyone can have a more meaningful discussion,” Zaneis said.

That’s the grand vision. For now, BSI is effectively in beta, working on populating its board, fleshing out the course materials and figuring out how best to share resources and partner with related organizations, including TAG, CBA and the 4As, which launched its own brand safety consortium for agencies in April.

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