Advertisers are Rushing to Assure Brand Safety

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For marketers it seemed like a gift from the technology gods. Digital marketing, the limitless opportunity to reach out and connect with infinite numbers of potential customers and grab their undivided attention to your messages where they live, shop, walk, play or relax. Never having to worry about printed media’s shelf life, missed delivered copies of the daily news bugle, mass distributed mailings or consumers planning their trips to the refrigerator during commercial breaks.

For a relatively paltry few cents per touch point, sellers can connect with a customer through smart phones, pads, desktops, laptops, wearable or even home appliances. By gathering up all the subsequent data, sellers can learn what the consumer bought, how and where they bought it, and potentially how much the customer earns, how many kids live with them in their single parent, multi-parent or no parent household, and how they were about to act. Digital marketing was promising an end to a consumer’s ability to escape the messaging even for an unobtrusive bathroom break. What could possibly go wrong with this new-found advertising utopia?

In a time where ultra-sensitivity prevails around every expressed comment, public position, personal opinion or mutual association, the answer has been revealed: plenty. With 37% of consumers saying their perception of a brand is altered when they see ads placed alongside offensive content, marketers are learning that just one misplaced advertisement can result in serious damage to the brand’s image and value. With major social media channels falling victim to careless handling of user data and insensitivity to accepting offensive content, marketers are rethinking the investment in many digital platforms. Major advertisers are responding to the threat by establishing policies that eliminate investment in platforms or environments that do not protect children or that create division in society or promote anger or hate.

Research indicates that 77 percent of brand marketers are convinced that failing to address brand safety directly impacts return on investment (ROI), leading a staggering 91% of digital marketers to implement or plan brand-safe strategies. Many of the world’s biggest advertisers are learning just how little control they have over their brands once they’ve been released into the digital media environment. James Londal, chief data officer at Hearts & Science says, “We want our adverts to appear in the best place. We need to have greater control over where ads appear, regardless of the platform. We need to have a certain standard of quality on the content. Platforms need to ensure the quality level is maintained.”

Facebook, Twitter and other digital platforms are finding themselves behind a learning curve and scrambling to undo the damage to advertisers’ brands and their own bottom lines. Regaining advertisers’ trust and confidence in the digital marketing chain is not likely to be quick. Some digital competitors are exploiting the problem by promising to fix internal failings and offering more advertiser control of ad placements. The solution may not lie only with the platforms and purveyors of digital media but with the industry as a whole. “I think that marketing as an industry needs to take a good look at itself and really question: am I truly, truly, truly a competitive value proposition such that I am a provider to the industry?” says, Andy Main, head of Deloitte Digital, told Marketing Dive. “A lot of it hasn’t been reinvented for decades and people are running out of juice on old business models that are so antiquated that people are just running away from them.”

Advertisers must reevaluate the level of the marketing department’s involvement in protecting the brand from association with offensive and damaging social commentary. Social responsibility has become an important part of a company’s overall marketing strategy. Being recognized as supporting universally accepted social issues can add significant brand value in an increasingly socially conscious market. In the new world of commerce, our grandfather’s lament to never speaking of politics and religion in conducting business is no longer a tenantable position. However, in a society equally divided over micro social and political issues, our forebearer’s advice may still hold some measure of validity.

Contact us to learn more about the importance of Reputation Management and how Junction can assist in protecting your brand!