Programmatic native advertising is on the rise, as illustrated by MediaRadar’s report that 1,900 advertisers invested $2.6 billion in the space between January and May 2021. Compare this to 2020, when 926 advertisers spent $1.9 billion, and it’s clear that advertisers want to maximize the scale and efficiency of native advertising through automation.
Yet the growth of programmatic trading also makes brand safety more challenging, with some environments holding the potential risk of negative associations for buyers and sellers. As a recent example, sites such as The Washington Post and New York Magazine inadvertently featured porn from an adult network, which had bought the video platform Vidme — a platform the publishers were using to embed other video content.
Of course, brand safety is always a key concern across the digital advertising industry, but it’s especially important for native placements. When ads are seamlessly integrated with their environments, it forms even stronger links between brands, publishers and the content on the webpage. Therefore, quality, relevance and suitability are vital for maintaining and enhancing close connections with consumers.
To protect their reputations and identify optimal native placements, brands should take the following steps into consideration.
Pick your partners carefully.
Buyers must select ad networks that prioritize media security for programmatic and non-automated native ads, as well as employ ongoing quality scanning. Brands should work with a reliable portfolio of premium publishers within private marketplaces (PMPs) that are underpinned by these trusted ad networks.
PMPs create a more direct, transparent partnership between the buy and sell sides, which means advertisers can be confident that the available media is rigorously vetted and aligns with their messaging and values.
Being highly selective about trading partners and native placements is critical for ensuring brand safety, but how can buyers be certain they aren’t limiting their opportunities?
Consider the context.
When it comes to brand safety tools, advertisers typically employ methods such as blacklists, whitelists and keyword blocking to give them granular control over what kind of content surrounds their ads. Although these are extremely valuable, particularly when used in conjunction with other verification methods, they come with a risk of their own. Unexpected opportunities could emerge and advertisers need the means to proactively harness them, instead of missing out.
In 2020, for example, many brands understandably took a cautious stance on advertising around content related to Covid-19, especially given the rise of misinformation. With the pandemic high on the news agenda, however, this meant brands were minimizing the scale of their campaigns when not all content was unsafe. In fact, authoritative, optimistic and educational content gave some brands the opportunity for positive associations.
To make the most of these opportunities, brands should adopt tools to identify native placements that are not only safe but also highly suitable. Using techniques powered by artificial intelligence, advanced contextual technologies are capable of natural language processing (NLP) and semantic analysis. Extracting meaning from the grammatical structure of sentences and individual words, this technique is used to categorize context and measure overall sentiment. Contextual targeting, therefore, ensures environments and ad content complement each other, enhancing brand messaging and engaging receptive audiences. This then allows brands to make more informed choices based on the brand suitability of native placements.
Ask the right questions.
While planning their approaches to mitigating risk, brands should open discussions with an agency or partner and ask three essential questions:
How does your solution protect my individual brand?
One-size-fits-all solutions don’t account for the different values, objectives and target audiences of all brands. As a result, brands should look for partners whose tools support customizable brand safety criteria. This will allow them to consider media that is most relevant and suited to their products or industries.
Can you prove the technology works?
Demonstrable success is hugely important when selecting the best partners and tools to safeguard against risk. For instance, partners should be able to show how advanced, AI-based brand safety technologies such as semantic analysis and natural language processing deliver higher engagement rates. The NLP market is predicted to grow from $3 billion in 2017 to more than $43 billion in 2025 — and where there’s investment, there’s value, so always ask for results from the partners utilizing these technologies.
How will your technology impact my reach?
Brand safety is nuanced and the technologies used to protect it must mirror this. The ability to understand linguistic complexities and read content as the human brain does enables brands to seize all possible opportunities for enhancing their reputation through relevant and suitable native placements. Connecting with target audiences in a safe environment shouldn’t come at the cost of limiting reach.
Brands are looking for a way to ensure their digital advertising both complements surrounding content and meets audience expectations. Native placements can answer these needs, but their success relies on how ads are integrated into the user experience.
Adopting an automated approach can significantly improve efficiency, but brands need a tailored strategy for determining brand suitability and building connections with ad-weary audiences. To guarantee their native advertising is impactful, brands must work with trusted ad networks, discuss specific brand safety criteria with their partners, and leverage technologies that can identify brand-suitable placements. In doing so, they will boost their reputation by delivering relevant and engaging messaging within not just safe but optimal environments.