Key takeaways from the Digiday Programmatic Marketing Summit

Sarah Polli, director of platform strategy at Hearts & Science gave a presentation alongside Tim Peterson, senior reporter at Digiday, as part of the Digiday Programmatic Marketing Summit.

Their presentation was one among many discussing the black box of programmatic supply chain—diving in to explore where experts are investing across platforms and how they can become more efficient.  

Are brand safety and reach mutually exclusive?

Over the past two years, brand safety has taken over ad buyers’ imaginations. But with the increasing focus on negating risk, reach is often sacrificed. In Sarah and Tim’s session, they discuss how they’re shifting spending across platforms and working with clients who are asking for a safe brand profile.

Sarah Polli shares, “Brand safety or really brand equity concerns have always been there. When I was at The Washington Post, I remember receiving negative keyword lists from agencies and IOs with terms around 9/11 for air travel companies. Due to the way users get info today and how varied and quickly the information—good bad and ugly—spreads, brand safety has crept back up.”

“It really bubbled back up to marketers’ priorities with ads appearing next to terrorist videos on YouTube and we haven’t been able to break that. Today’s political climate also does not help. Though this does not mean we’re not able to run on YouTube or news outlets. We do, and we see the scale and performance we need for our clients.”

“Word of mouth has always been a key component to any brand large or small, new or legacy. Today word of mouth can happen in a split second on several different channels. We never know what’s going to go viral, so brands have to be ready.”

Three key takeaways for brands

1. Brands need to understand what they can and cannot control—particularly on user-generated content (UGC) platforms.

Not every platform is created equal, nor is the technology that is available. If a brand wants to take the more conservative route, they should work with their agency and ad verification vendor to really understand the technology available and its nuances.

A good agency will dig into those gray areas with you and develop a playbook on how to handle each platform—especially for UGC, where brands still have a responsibility to prevent the spread of fake news or harmful content. “Setting and forgetting” is not an option in effective brand safety strategy.

Brands can control certain elements to improve their brand safety.

  • Page-level targeting through 3P ad verification companies
  • Build whitelist or blacklist sites you run on or must avoid—on television too with do and do-not-air lists
  • Apply negative keywords against metadata on YouTube

However, even the best agencies can’t control everything.

  • Technology limitations make for measurement difficulties across platforms, particularly with in-app and video—experts need to adopt open measurement SDK and upgrade to VAST 4.1 to combat this  
  • UGC platforms are unpredictable

2. Sixty-four percent of Millennials & Gen Xers say brand risks can tarnish brand reputation.

Last year, Hearts & Science partnered with the Wharton Future of Advertising program to collaborate on three Forces of Change. One of these forces is Negative Reach and explores how brands can align themselves to avoid unsavory content.

This is particularly relevant for Millennials and Gen Xers who control 1.3 trillion in spending power. Seventy percent of this group won’t like, recommend or buy from that brand again if their ads appear misaligned. To make matters worse, the stakes are high because 1 in 3 won’t be sure if the brand is at fault or not.  

3. Leverage technology and humans to help align your standards across media channels.

Technology can be powerful in maintaining brand safety controls, but humans are still required to keep quality control across the board. By combining all capabilities, from selecting content categories to maintaining negative keyword lists, blacklists and whitelists, you can start to protect yourself holistically.

As you build your whitelist from scratch and ensure it is reviewed by a human, you’ll have a better understanding of where your ads may appear. At Hearts & Science, we are working to develop a streamlined whitelist for large advertisers and we are finding it has increased ad quality significantly.

Lastly, review your negative keyword list manually and frequently. Existing lists may have words that over block for your brand and unnecessarily damage your reach.

Brand safety is just the beginning

At Hearts & Science, we always value brand safety. It’s a core pillar of the strategic equation at Hearts, but we also think about data, frequency and supply transparency for our clients. When we bring all of these elements together, we truly win for our clients and guide them to success.

Interested in learning more? Contact us to learn more about our programmatic media strategy.