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How marketers can protect the brand safety of their clients

Marketers have a responsibility to protect the reputation of brands and can use technology to make it happen.

4 min read

Marketing Strategy



With technology constantly evolving and fraudsters becoming more advanced, brand safety is not guaranteed.

Marketers are given the challenging task of trying to make sure the right people see a brand’s ad at the right time, and that the reputation of that brand is protected.

So how can marketers ensure that brands, campaigns and users are protected from bad impressions?

Guilt by association

When building media plans, marketers want to assure the placements purchased programmatically are surrounded by content that positively positions the client’s brand.

Obstacles that stand in the way are fake news, unsavory content and misrepresented domains within programmatic ad exchanges. To avoid risky placements, marketers must arm brands with these solutions:

  1. Invest client ad dollars in private marketplaces or with site direct media buys. These inventory sources are always verified and contain quality content surrounding ads, even if they come at a premium price and limited scale.
  2. Use contextual anti-targeting. Brands can filter out negative content by avoiding certain keywords. However, this has gray areas. If the advertiser is a nonprofit for military veterans, for example, it is difficult to differentiate between articles on rifle-induced Post Traumatic Stress Disorder and articles on terrorist activities. The first placement is essential for generating donations to the nonprofit, whereas the other is obviously not something the organization wants to promote.
  3. Tap blacklisting. With similar limitations as contextual anti-targeting, a third solution is black or whitelisting. Blacklisting blocks various websites from the list of inventory sources your media vendors are able to bid on and whitelisting provides a list of “safe” websites.
  4. Ensure that campaign inventory sources are who they represent themselves to be. If not, ads end up next to unsavory content despite brand safeguards. Luckily, technology, such as the Interactive Advertising Bureau Tech Lab’s Ads.txt files, can combat this programmatic issue.

Sending the right message

In order to protect consumers’ opinions of brands, advertisers need to appeal to variations of the brand’s potential audience. Marketers must evaluate the main subject of imagery, the copy and the surroundings showcased within the creative to make sure there is no bias toward or away from any gender, race or group.

To ensure a client’s brand appeals to all audiences, rotate a diverse mix of creative units that appeal to any and all demographics, and rotate them so users are given the chance to view their most preferred ad within the customer journey.

Avoid lighting money on fire

Marketers also have to protect the integrity of campaigns and ensure full delivery. The following solutions are the best practices to a campaign’s effectiveness and integrity:

  1. Use a third-party verifier with pre-bid ad blocking enabled. They monitor inventory sources’ activities within ad exchanges to protect brands against paying for impressions with fraudulent data attached.
  2. To ensure efficient spending, mandate ad collision avoidance with all partners. This prevents campaigns from serving multiple impressions per partner on the same page, minimizing impression waste and providing a positive user brand interaction.
  3. Over-messaging of users is a consistent challenge for marketers. By implementing frequency caps across short time periods, it can prevent this impression waste.
  4. To ensure the message’s relevance, put an expiration date on a user for retargeting. Brands should refresh retargeting pools based on research conducted by clients, regarding typical length of time to convert.

In the digital marketing world, reputation is everything. These solutions can protect your brand’s reputation based on surrounding content, consumer opinion of the brand, as well as the integrity of the campaigns. However, we also know that not all of these solutions are “catch-all.” Utilizing these tools we currently have at our disposal is oftentimes the best way to turn average media campaign performance into a strong driver of overall brand profitability.


Brittany Bennett is a Media Planner at DRUM Agency. She is experienced in both traditional and digital media. Brittany has successfully executed campaigns for top clients such as Carhartt, Spanx, Wounded Warrior Project, Southern Company, RaceTrac, Victorinox, Belgard, Vidant Health, and Honda Power Equipment.

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