• mFilterIt Experts

Brand Safety: The World Before and after Digital Marketing



Brand safety has been significantly impacted by the evolution of technology, content, and sharing platforms. In just 25 years, brand safety has evolved from the pre-digital dark ages to the forefront of advertising technology. In the pre-digital era, brand safety largely consisted of tangible issues such as poor product placement, trademark infringement, and bad press.




Simple isn't always better though, it was hard to target, scale, and measure campaigns, and a lot of creative energy was wasted on things computers now can do.


A brand's safety concerns today include more than just traditional print advertising, including websites, blogs, and social media platforms. Marketers and advertisers must now change their approaches to brand safety as a result.


Here's how brand safety has evolved over the years:


Prior to Digital Marketing


In the past, advertisers used billboard ads and print ads to entice customers to make a purchase. During that time period, these methods were effective, but they posed brand safety concerns. The placement of ads could negatively impact a company's reputation.


In the past (and still today) advertisers were concerned with:


Placing the logo incorrectly. It only takes something like a Turkish Airlines ad on the side of an escalator having an aeroplane flying straight into the ground or a Starbucks sliding door van failure to turn a basic logo placement and brand name into a negative one. You see Starbucks ‘logo followed by “Sucks” as you close the door of the van. This is a prime example of the poor placement of a logo.


Poorly placed products. The placement of certain products next to items in the store could also undermine brand safety. Imagine you are in the grocery store and see a display of condoms next to the kid’s section. Your reaction? We'll let you fill in the blanks, but there's likely to be nothing positive.


Products that are used negatively. The backlash against a brand as a result of products being used for a negative purpose is not new. A famous example of it is the 1994 white Bronco chase involving O.J. Simpson, which predates digital marketing. Thanks to Simpson, the Ford Bronco became infamous. People immediately think of Simpson's getaway vehicle when they hear the word Bronco. This is not what Ford intended.


These are just a few of the obstacles advertisers faced. After digital marketing burst onto the scene, these issues developed into a whole new set of problems.


After Digital Marketing


As digital advertising evolved from traditional advertising and reached a wider audience, it also raised concerns about brand safety. Here are some of them:


Poor programmatic ad placements. In addition to poor product placement, programmatic ads have also been placed next to non-brand safe images and articles and on unsavoury websites. As an example, Applebee's dancing cowboy commercial appeared on CNN on a split-screen alongside the headline "Russia invades Ukraine". The QSR chain reported its disappointment to CNN and stopped spending with the broadcaster.


Hijacking your brand by rogue groups. In an anti-marriage equality ad, Meghan Trainor's brand and likeness were used without her permission. A group of individuals stole her image from the internet and used it to make their own propaganda.


Trainer soon found herself dealing with the damage. She's not the only one. Also, the TIKI torch brand was inadvertently linked to a brand safety issue when they were used at a white supremacist rally.


Disastrous PR and influencers. Influencers work with brands to increase audience reach. Nevertheless, sometimes this can backfire for both the influencer and the brand. Consider yourself an influential figure like beauty guru Huda Kattan. You are featured in an ad for Sephora that appears on an unsavoury website. Or perhaps Kattan has a PR disaster, and Sephora is forced to decide whether or not to continue running her ads (not unlike Papa John's). Either scenario could be disastrous.


The negative effects of YouTube. YouTube lost 5% of its top North American advertisers due to brand safety in 2017. The key cause: Ads were being served on extremist content. Top brands such as Netflix, Nissan, Under Armour, and others were affected by this major brand safety issue. Nissan and Under Armour decided to pause their YouTube ads because of this.


It's time to take control of advertising


Brand safety is fluid in digital marketing. It is difficult to enforce and regulate because there is no universal rating system. Advertising placements that are negative for one company may be beneficial for another. What's more concerning is that YouTube is asking creators to rate their own videos given the massive amount of content they have to control. Creators aren't unbiased, and most aren't familiar with offensive or safe content.


Marketers and advertisers need to move beyond antiquated thinking and focus on how to deal with brand safety right now. Engage with a brand safety solution provider such as mFilterIt and be assured that your digital assets are devoid of threats. We help in protecting your brand reputation by keeping your assets away from high-risk digital content for both web and app. Get in touch to know more.

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