Everything You Need to Know About Protecting Your Brand

Just a few short years ago, the digital ad industry seemed almost obsessed with the concept of “brand safety.’ However, a few years later, their concerns seem to have shifted, and they are now focused on “Brand Suitability.”

Where Is Your Brand Advertising?

The term “brand suitability refers to a marketer’s preference for certain types of targeting parameters, and making decisions that are leading them to advertise on sites that are not suitable for their brand. This change in direction was highlighted in a “State of the Industry study, and it brings up a lot of questions.

For example, who is ultimately responsible for an ad appearing on a website or blog that is unsuitable for the advertiser? And why has it supplanted safety as an area of concern for advertisers?

For one thing, imagine that the sites on which you advertise match the demographics and the location you are looking for, but the sites have content that is, say, the opposite of “family friendly.” Is it part of the vision for your brand to spend weeks or months having to explain why you’re not part of their brand?

That is why “brand safety” was an issue just a few years ago. And the reason the focus has shifted away from that to “brand suitability” is because marketers have been diligent about keeping their brands safer from inappropriate sites, and now, they are looking to maximize brand suitability, which is far less loathsome.

So, Why Is Suitability More Important Than Safety Now?

The reason most industry study participants cited “brand suitability” as the most important concern these days varies among participants, primarily because they tend to disagree on what the two terms mean.

Whereas most marketers in the study stated that key differences exist between safety and suitability, more than a quarter (27%) of respondents felt the two terms were essentially the same.

While there was a lot of conflict between the participants in the study, most agreed that both safety and suitability can have a negative effect on their brand and ultimately on their bottom line. Not only that, but nearly half (44%) of respondents to the study said they have lost money due to suitability or safety.

Ultimately, and not surprisingly, one of the few things all marketing participants agreed on was that every major player in the digital advertising industry bore some of the responsibility for these types of issues.

Ok, But Who Is Most Responsible for Brand Suitability?

Everyone in the system has their own responsibility but only the company’s marketer can actually do something to make sure that where they advertise is not likely to cause confusion among targets regarding what they stand for.

That said, a number of industry trade groups seem intent on taking the lead regarding both safety and suitability, so the digital ad industry seems to be taking responsibility, as well.

That seems to indicate that all parties share the opinion that everyone is equally responsible for making sure that both safety and suitability issues are properly addressed. That is because everyone down the line wants more effective outcomes, and dealing with brand suitability issues is key to that.

If All Are Responsible, How Does Marketing Change?

According to an even newer study, many digital ad platforms have started to implement what is called “Human in the Loop Contextual Targeting,” in which brand preferences are incorporated into machine learning that is now overseen by humans.

The study found that having humans as part of the loop was helpful in helping marketers choose good targets for their advertising, and making it less likely for brands to find themselves associating with a site they want no association with. Increasingly, advertisers are more focused on suitability, as well as other factors.


Finally, it should go without saying that your brand reputation is your responsibility. Which means you have to be in the market every day listening to your customers, measuring their quality of engagement with your brand and responding to issues with ruthless consistency.  

This article was inspired by our friends at Home Business.

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