Planning for Disaster: How to keep your brand safe online 

It’s more important than ever for companies to be aware of where their brands are going and what’s going to be around them. In an age of screenshots and social media, consumers aren’t always open to giving second chances. If your brand ends up next to objectionable content, it could be a PR nightmare. 

Keeping your brand safe, whether you’re using an agency or booking your own advertising, doesn’t have to be a challenge. It just takes a little forethought, some common sense and knowledge. 

“Be aware of where your ads are appearing,” Robert Hutchinson, Fairfax Media’s Product Development Director, says. “Don’t settle for assurances like, ‘we have a white list’ or ‘we have a tool that detects inappropriate or offensive content’. Decide what content is offensive or inappropriate to be next to your brand.” 

This awareness, Hutchinson says, should ensure everyone (including agencies) buying or planning your organisation's advertising has an explicit understanding of which websites are appropriate for your brand and which aren’t.

Self-awareness and industry calls for transparency around where ads are showing up is a growing trend. Ursula Mattar, Fairfax Media’s Digital Commercialisation Director, says advertisers “will not tolerate their brands being compromised”. 

KPEX Programmatic Digital Advertising  

This can lead to a tendency to draw away from programmatic advertising, because it can lead to brands being aligned with content that doesn’t fit their values. Despite the risks and challenges some brands are now facing, Hutchinson says that programmatic advertising isn’t inherently bad.
 
KPEX is a programmatic digital advertising platform that links together New Zealand publishers, Fairfax Media, Media Works, NZME and TVNZ, among others. 

“KPEX is a digital display advertising exchange.” Hutchinson says. “KPEX consists entirely of premium New Zealand publisher and broadcaster websites. The content KPEX ads appear next to is specifically for New Zealanders and has gone through an editorial process that emphasises accuracy, quality and compelling storytelling.” 

The publishers that make up KPEX are incentivised to create compelling local content and safe advertiser environments. 


Brand Safety and Local Publishers

These incentives are built on a culture that holds local publishers to different standards. This, Mattar says, is good news for brands  looking to move away from Google and Facebook.  

“Local publishers have long been held to a different standard than international players, so brands pulling their spend away from Google is a sign of brands voting with their dollars. They can begin to influence change in these global organisations.”

Part of looking towards local publishers is considering what they’re publishing and how being positioned within a brand safe environment can build a brand up, create less risk, and lead to stronger engagement. 

“Stuff is NZ’s number one local news destination for over 2.2 million Kiwis every month. Our audience accesses our content multiple times a day through various means so they’re kept up to date with the latest news.” Says Mattar. 

An audience of that scale and engagement can be valuable to brands for many reasons, Hutchinson says. “They are often highly engaged with content, actively seeking out what interests them. The environment ads appear in is part of what the audience processes when assessing brands, even if you are only ‘buying audiences’. If your brand shows up on an illegal video streaming site or next to an offensive comments thread it will be considered in that context by the audience.” 

Mattar notes that another deciding factor in how audience’s perceive brands is shrinking consumer attention spans. “They have more power than ever before to choose when, where and how they’re being advertised to.    The challenges for advertisers is not just to get consumers attention, but to hold it.” 

Where do you want your brand to engage customers?

Brands need to be asking themselves, where do we want to be engaging consumers? A premium environment with a returning audience or an environment with no editorial process that could put the brand beside anything. 

How does a local publisher control where your content is going to end up? Hutchinson has a simple explanation that highlights the stark differences. 

“We [at Fairfax Media] offer advertisers an audience that has actively chosen to watch a video. We don’t let the User Generated Content video maker simply ‘tick a box’ to begin monetising their video. We warn viewers if the content on a page is potentially disturbing. We won’t play ads against pre-school children’s content just because the logged in profile is their parents’.” 

“There has always been an inextricable link between great content and advertising spend.” says Mattar, “Great content attracts engaged customers which is an important factor for online advertising.” 

Keeping a brand safe can mean a lot of things but, increasingly, it means being proactive about where your brand will be seen (or where it won’t be) and understanding that as user generated content continues to explode, premium environments will continue to be the safest option for your brand.