A Trail Guide's Approach to Brand Safety

October 8, 2012 Eric Bosco

Fall is the time of year when brands invest in targeting students and families online. For one, advertisers have started to analyze the effectiveness of their back-to-school campaigns, especially when online shopping activity is on the upswing. In addition, smart brands are using the results of back-to-school campaigns to modify and strategize, as they plan for the holiday shopping season. 

A sophisticated targeting campaign involves some sort of targeting and buying engine. Targeting providers have evolved from manual approaches to automated platforms. These platforms can have their challenges. If the platform is not calibrated effectively, your family-driven brand may find itself on a less-than-friendly site tarnishing a brand’s reputation.

Because of these risks, some brands still steer clear of automated online advertising and continue with the traditional approach of hand-selecting the publishers they believe will reach their key demographics. 

The Internet can be a scary place for brands, but fear shouldn’t prohibit advertisers from exploring the full array of online possibilities to reach new and undiscovered audiences. In this unknown environment, how can brands protect their online reputation and reap the benefits of automation? With some simple advice – be prepared.

Protect Your Rep

A logical first step in preparing your online brand is to protect against blatantly inappropriate placements – and there are very effective systems and methods of ensuring this type of sophisticated analysis and protection. The next step is to recognize other red flags when it comes to online brand safety. In this context, it’s necessary to look more broadly than contextual safety and consider brand reputation.

There’s more to brand reputation than protecting against the lewd and obscene; it’s also about having your brand not appear in bad taste. Many automation engines will evaluate a placement based on a particular news outlet and/or demographic, but not take contextual information into account. As a result, while CNNMoney.com might appeal to your audience, an ad for your new toy looks distasteful when it’s paired with an article on child obesity. 

Poor brand reputation also comes with poor and un-insightful retargeting. If you run the same ad over and over again, to the same consumer repeatedly, showing the consumer a product or service they are not interested in is equally damaging as a poor outlet choice, or poor timing of a particular article.

As a result, companies need to explore options that have a sophisticated way of curating and evaluating numerous sources of information: time, place, demo and behavior, among numerous others. After a brand has a full picture of its current online activity, it’s important to go on the offensive to find new audiences and targets. At the end of the day, brands should be thinking of brand safety as an exotic trip abroad or a wilderness camping trip. It’s important to experience new places, but it’s always a good idea to do your research and refer to a travel guide. 

Have no fear – there are preventative measures and technology partners that can escort brands through these unchartered waters to assure that your brand is able to unearth the treasures of the online world. Brands that give in to fear and continue to hand-select outlets are missing an opportunity to reach and learn about new audiences and potential buyers; and as we all know just maintaining the same customer-base is not enough to grow your brand and grow revenues. Brands that have a full picture of brand safety and potential pitfalls can integrate their online approach, in order to ensure your image is upheld and safe, especially during family-friendly shopping seasons.

OPS Mobile

The Brazilian digital advertising scene is heating up – AdMonsters Brazil will bring digital advertising leaders and ops professionals together to discuss and develop best practices for the budding Brazilian online ad infrastructure. Register today for AdMonsters Brazil, which will be held Nov. 28, 2012, in São Paulo.



Eric Bosco brings nearly 20 years of experience to the role of COO at ChoiceStream. Eric most recently was Chief Product Officer at marketing data and services company comScore. Prior to comScore, Eric enjoyed a long and successful career at one of the world’s leading online companies – AOL – where he held senior roles at related advertising companies as SVP of Global Products and US Operations for AOL’s Platform-A, Advertising.com and multiple roles at the parent company (VP of Community and Communications Products and Senior Technical Director of AOL’s iconic Instant Messaging product). At ChoiceStream, Eric oversees world-class engineering, ad operations and integrations teams. He is charged with helping craft creative strategies to deploy ChoiceStream’s leading personalization technology in new and powerful ways. Eric is especially committed to providing the world’s biggest brands with better ways to reach consumers through personalized marketing solutions. He holds a Masters in Computer Science from Stanford and a Bachelor of Science in Engineering, Computer Science Engineering from University of Pennsylvania.

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