What checks and balances are needed for brand safety?

March 29, 2017
by Jeff Green – CEO and Founder

In just seven days, more than 250 brands have pulled the plug on their YouTube ad spending. This is forcing our industry to pause and ask, “how safe is user-generated content (UGC)?”

Most advertisers and agencies know that policing UGC is a really hard job—something that YouTube and Facebook have always struggled with. Everyone in advertising knows that being 100% brand safe 100% of the time is impossible in any media, but especially the fast moving and sometimes ephemeral world of digital.

Some say advertisers and agencies are caught in a tug-of-war between quality and reach in digital media. But events this week reflect fundamental concerns around transparency and control that will ultimately shape our market. These forces make it inevitable that premium digital content will only become more valuable.

With that in mind, here’s my take on how advertisers should be thinking about the balance between quality and reach:

Focus on premium video: Running on high quality publishers is a better alternative. We advocate buying private marketplace inventory with premium publishers to enhance transparency and brand safety. For example, unfettered by any constraints, our aggregate video spend has been growing by hundreds of percentage points every year because we focus on premium video content over UGC.

Enforce more human oversight: Beyond technology, make sure your partners are investing in people, too. At TTD, we have a full-time marketplace quality team staffed with data scientists and engineers who closely monitor, review and scrub site lists, making daily enhancements to our universal block list that is applied to every ad campaign.

Use best-in-class brand safety tools: In addition to human controls, weed out fraudulent or unsafe inventory using third party technology solutions. Our un-biased marketplace approach enables advertisers to activate independent brand safety verification across their media buys.

Insist on greater levels of decisioning and control: The media market dynamic is moving from sellers saying “I’ll tell you what you get” to buyers demanding “show me everything that’s available, and I’ll pick what I need.” This precision is driving huge improvements in return on ad spend, enhancing brand safety, and will ultimately improve the consumer experience with more relevant marketing.

Improve transparency: For our industry to thrive, media buyers need partners who are objectively steering dollars to the best options—partners like The Trade Desk, which is solely focused on providing value to buyers, not to buyers and sellers.

Digital isn’t going anywhere, it’s only going to get bigger. In the race to win with the digital consumer, brands have to choose partners who are committed to transparency, efficiency and results.