Consumers express a nuanced appreciation of the complexities of the brand safety decisions faced by advertisers, according to a new survey conducted by the digital advertising industry certification programme the Trustworthy Accountability Group (TAG) and digital advertising industry initiative Brand Safety Institute (BSI) among more than a thousand US adults via SurveyMonkey.
For example, instead of blocking controversial news content, 40 per cent of consumers said all news content should be appropriate for ads, and the remainder differentiated between stories involving violence and death and those about policy, societal changes, and peaceful protests on the same issues. In addition, consumers defined the issue of brand safety broadly, including not only inappropriate ad placements but also ad-related malware and ads placed near pirated content.
The historic confluence of inflammatory events over the last year – from Covid-19 to racial justice protests, the nation’s economic crisis, and election controversies – appears to have dramatically elevated consumer focus on brand safety issues, with 83 per cent of respondents saying they were more aware of brand safety issues than they were a year ago.
“The past year has been a witches’ brew of toxic brand safety challenges across public health, economic, and political topics, and – happily – this survey showed the success of our industry’s efforts to set higher standards and professionalise the field of brand safety,” said Mike Zaneis, CEO of the TAG and co-founder of BSI. “Rather than clumsy and narrow traditional approaches that focused on specific keywords or solely on ad adjacency, we are now looking holistically at these challenges in a nuanced, consumer-centric way.”
Among other findings of the survey:
“Brand safety is an issue of consumer perception, and this survey highlighted how nuanced consumers have become in their evaluation of brand risks,” said Neal Thurman, co-founder of BSI. “On topic after topic, consumers differentiated between more controversial news coverage and related topics they felt were appropriate for advertising with a significant plurality saying all news coverage should be cleared for ads. Similarly, consumers looked beyond traditional content issues to include other risks like malvertising and digital piracy in their evaluation of brand safety.”
What Topics of News Coverage Should Advertisers Block for Their Ads, if Any?
(Percent of Respondents Who Said Each Type of Content Should Be Blocked)
|Less Appropriate||Block?||More Appropriate||Block?|
|Mass shootings in schools or other locations||38.7 per cent||Firearms legislation or policy||21.7 per cent|
|Violent riots or civil unrest||33.5 per cent||Peaceful marches or protests||16.3 per cent|
|Incidents of police brutality||31.8 per cent|
|COVID-19 deaths and tragedies||29.9 per cent||Covid-19 societal impact||20.9 per cent|
|Controversial political figures||27.6 per cent||Plane crashes||23.8 per cent|
Notably, 40 per cent of respondents said all news coverage should be appropriate for ads.
Consumers Maintain Broad View of Brand Safety-Related Issues
(Percent of Respondents Who Said Each Type of Content Should Be Blocked by Advertisers)
|Unsafe or Hacked Websites||65.8 per cent||72.8 per cent|
|Stolen/Pirated Movies or TV Shows||54.2 per cent||52.5 per cent|
In September 2020, TAG launched the ad industry’s first global brand safety certification programme with more than 110 major companies participating at launch, including Amazon, Facebook, Google, GroupM, Havas, Kroger, Omnicom Media Group, Twitter, and Walmart. The programme sets rigorous standards for companies across the supply chain to demonstrate their commitment to brand safety.