Brand safety: AI to the rescue?

If you’re an online brand, there’s a good chance your ads have been placed next to inappropriate content on the internet. According to eMarketer, about 3 out of 4 brands have been exposed to online brand safety issues in the US alone, raising alarms for brand safety controls and policies that protect advertisers from unsafe placement.

Brand safety is a top concern, especially when today’s internet is driven, in large part, by user-generated content and the media landscape is completely different from the one we knew and trusted just a few years ago.  More than US$628 billion in total digital ad spend worldwide is at stake as internet giants like Facebook and Google try to tame it.

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Vast problem of the whole online branch

One of the most recent examples of brand unsafe content was revealed by The Times investigation, reporting that “some of the world’s biggest brands were advertising on YouTube videos showing scantily clad children that attracted comments from hundreds of pedophiles”. Dozens of global and popular brands with ads appeared on those videos.

YouTube’s brand-safety issues have caused its ad sales to flatten during 2018. This brand-safety trust crisis has opened up an opportunity for Instagram’s new IGTV app that features high-quality, long-form video to take a big slice of the lucrative ad sales tied to video attachment. While Instagram isn’t running ads over IGTV content right away, it plans to test out the best ways for creators to monetize their content soon.

Marketers are aware of these changes and voting with their budgets. Facebook’s decision to devalue media content within its news feed, which is a part of a bigger change in its algorithm and video strategy due to its own well-publicized woes. According to Advertiser Perceptions and Oath study, 45 percent of advertisers think social media sites do a bad job on brand safety, which is now a top concern among a vast majority (94%) of advertising decision-makers.

AI to the rescue for brand safety

Internet giants are using advanced technologies such as AI, deep learning and computer vision to avoid ad misplacements next to inappropriate or disturbing content. These technologies are already helping car brands avoid placing ads next to news about a road crash, or help companies to avoid ads placed on media sites with extreme points of view.

For example, Google unveiled a new ad unit for AdSense. It uses machine learning via its “Auto Ads” that automatically read a page to instantly detect and place ads that might be most appropriate to place there. According to Google, publishers can earn up to 10% more by using it.

By training software to think more like a human brain, an advanced branch of A.I. called deep learning using neural networks, e-commerce platforms can improve shopper response, reduce shopping-cart abandonment and drive more revenue. Many experts believe that new advancements powered by AI are the ad-industry’s best bet to help solve its very big brand-safety crisis. This technology, can be used to identify and avoid websites which content is deemed inappropriate by brands and consumers.

According to a Trust Barometer social media study by Edelman, 70% of respondents expect brands to curb the spread of fake news, and 68% states that brands should shield social media users from offensive content. It is hard to disagree with this, knowing that brands with their capabilities and budgets have a real power making a change in digital environment – especially when it comes to fake news and offensive content, which they do not tolerate or don’t want to be connected with it.

Brand safety awareness and policies have never been more important. Luckily, marketers and the advertising industry now have effective brand safety strategies and tools at their disposal to tackle the largest challenges of programmatic.

The writer is Chandra Kuncara, country manager, Southeast Asia, RTB House.