Brill Media

Programmatic Brand Safety For Your Display Advertising

Programmatic Brand Safety For Your Display Advertising

In yesterday’s New York Times a fantastic story is running about JP Morgan and the over 400,000 sites they have been running through their programmatic buying group. The story shares the insight that JP Morgan narrowed ad buying down to “just” 5,000 sites after reading about other brands appearing alongside fake news sites, offensive YouTube videos or content that is not brand safe. Clearly, programmatic brand safety is a very important topic.

For advertisers that are unsure of how to approach safety through programmatic channels here are a few ways to ensure you brand stays safe while achieving the needed reach to push the enterprise forward.

The Whitelist Is Your Best Friend

As noted in the article, grab a team of people who like looking at sites, buy them pizza for lunch and Chinese for dinner, work some long hours, and assess the site list. Each. And Every. Site. Click. Click. Click. Keep the ones that look good and nix the bad looking ones. The upside to this method is that stewards of your brand get to determine exactly which types of sites make it into your white list. The downside is that this effort takes a lot of time. But, with the right group of people you’ll get through the process quickly. In order to ensure success make a determination of the qualities and characteristics of the sites that you want to run ads on.

Some points of information to look at are the following:

  • Is the content safe and / or relevant to your brand
  • How quickly the site loads
  • The types of ads on the page
  • The number of ads on the page
  • The frequency of content posting on the site

Each brand will have a very custom set points of view about all of these factors.

Another way of creating a site list is to work with Trust Metrics. They use technology and human editorial to assess the same factors above, and more, to define a site list that is perfect for your brand. Trust Metrics looks at:

  • Design of the site
  • The number of unsafe words on the page
  • Number of ads above and below the fold
  • Language of the site
  • Presence of elements like violence, hate speech and profanity.

The output is a list of site that are safe and relevant to run on. They also work to create blacklists of sites for brands that want to stay away from hate speech, fake news and news outlets that fall on either side of the political spectrum.

Campaign Monitoring Is Key

Like with most parts of life a good setup leads to greater success. So, if you’ve done your due diligence during the campaign setup phase you have a strong start. The next step is to look at campaigns daily, sometimes more than daily, to drive performance. Part of that performance is the quality of the sites that are running. Look at CTRs, CPCs and performance throughout the day to look for factors that are indicative of strong performing sites and targeting strategies.

Use Safety Partners

There are a variety of ways to ensure that programatic display ads are delivered to users in an effective manner. DoubleVerify deploys technology that allows for ads to run on at least 50% viewable impressions. Buyers can turn the dial all the way up and bid on only the top 10% of viewable impressions. When brand safety is turned on, for example, ad calls that are made for sensitive subjects, such as copyright infringement, natural disasters and suggestive content, are not bid on. DoubleVerify also looks at patterns of behaviors on sites to make determinations about bot activity. By turning this feature on you avoid serving ads to fakers and fraudsters.

Companies including Integral Ad Science, Peer39 and comScore all make ads safe.

Deploy Contextual Targeting

The same providers of brand safe programmatic inventory offer contextual targeting. In conjunction with these other tactics contextual targeting allows the advertiser to run ads on sites that speak to specific topics, like food, sports, cars, holidays and hundreds of others. By turning on this targeting you get two benefits. The first is that the advertiser serves ads to users who are already primed to be interested in that category of products. So, a car advertiser serving on pages about cars is a good match. The second benefit is that the ads are delivered into pages on sites that you may otherwise not think about targeting. A car advertiser appearing around a conversation about cars on a general market site is valuable.

Additional Points

As campaigns run enterprises develop customized block lists. These are key to ensuring that across campaigns bad sites aren’t benefiting from your ad campaigns. DSPs diligently maintain ecosystem-wide block lists. Always deploy these.


Advertisers need to feel confident about the places their ads run. Programmatic display safety comes from constant and ongoing review of platforms and practices to catch the bad guys. We see substantial performance improvements when safety is turned on. For each advertiser, campaign and marketing goal a customized approach is good, and when combined with enterprise best practices we see the best results.

Supercharge Your Media Buying Today

Supercharge Your Media Buying Today