Robin Zieme (partner EMEA Channel Factory): How to ensure brand safety is not a simple tick-box exercise?

Robin Zieme, partner, EMEA at Channel Factory offers simple tips to ensure brand safety during a time of crisis. Even among premium brands, there is still sometimes a sense that brand suitability and brand safety are nice-to-have, but not necessarily business-critical. Consumers, however, tell a different story: a lot of people are ready to vote with their wallets if they see a brand where it shouldn’t be.

This is more important than ever, as societies grapple with crises including the coronavirus pandemic and the tragic killing of George Floyd.

Brands can avoid such a brand safety disaster with relative ease, but they need to take steps to do so. As economies continue to grapple with a global pandemic and platforms encounter a major usage spike during lockdown, fortunately, there are three simple steps that can be taken during this time to help protect brand safety at a time when it is paramount:

  • Step One: Build an exclusion list 

Exclusion lists are popular for brand safety purposes – if sometimes a little heavy-handed. YouTube has a sophisticated solution for brand safety that protects brands against illegal material or content that relates, for example, to racism, politics, bad news, adult content or illicit substances.

While brand safety involves content that is considered dangerous, illegal and universally unacceptable to all platform users, brand suitability is a brand-specific calculation. These are the contexts you want to avoid because of your particular brand preferences. If you are a car manufacturer for example, you will likely want to avoid content aimed at those under the legal driving age. There is nothing wrong with the content; it just doesn’t make sense from a targeting perspective.

  • Step Two: Don’t forget the inclusion list

Inclusion lists are as important as exclusion lists because this is how you scale your campaign. YouTube is constantly growing, and if you aren’t proactive about where to place ads, then you cannot capitalise on trending content. Brands should decide what content they want to surround, such as entertainment or sports, for instance, and then through machine learning, find similar types of content and continue to scale.

In the context of YouTube, an inclusion list is essentially a list of YouTube channels that you approve of your brand running ads on. Be positive and proactive; a marketer’s job is to find audiences, after all – not to routinely discount them out of an excess of caution.

  • Step three: Remember – brand suitability and performance are inextricably linked 

It’s a common myth that being brand safe means you can’t scale a campaign. This is a mistruth that certain brand safety players have propagated because they do not optimise their inclusion lists in real time.

I like to equate it to the car you drive on the weekend versus a race-car driver going through a course. The race car has a pit crew, constantly changing the tyres for peak performance, fuelling the car, and making sure it can perform as well as possible.

This is what contextual performance should be. Always-on optimization – ensuring that only channels and videos that perform are included, swapping out low performing channels, and finding new videos and channels via AI is key to making your campaign perform.

Contextual performance is the name we give to the perfect balance between contextual suitability and performance. When both are combined, brands are able to drive scale on YouTube and improve the overall efficiency of the channel for their business.

The truth is, brand suitability and performance go hand-in-hand.

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