Advertising Guest Columns
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2020 has transformed brand safety and consumer outreach: Where do we go from here?

2020 was always set to be a transformative year for advertising. From the emergence of CTV to the diminishing focus on third-party cookies, marketers were preparing for significant shifts.

However, no one anticipated quite how profoundly our sector would change this year. COVID-19 has rewritten the ad landscape, from the content and platforms consumers use, to the strategies brands roll-out to reach them.

Meanwhile, a rapidly moving and often inflammatory news cycle has meant brands, more than ever, have to balance strategies with brand safety and suitability.

I recently joined a virtual panel at the Programmatic Pioneers Summit to discuss how brand safety and reaching consumers has changed this year. Together, we discussed what these changes mean for the future of digital media.

Programmatic Pioneers Summit (L-R): David Goddard, IAB Europe; Lisa Kalyuzhny, PubMatic; Stefan Randjelovic, GroupM; Steve Mougis, DoubleVerify

It is early days, and the sector is still finding its feet in the ‘new normal’ but we need to start adapting.

These key takeaways from the panel offer insights into how publishers and brands can start that process.

We need to respond to changing consumer habits

With most consumers under some form of lockdown, content consumption has surged during the pandemic. From social media platforms like TikTok, through to gaming and fitness apps (as highlighted by co-panellist, Lisa Kalyuzhny of PubMatic) and premium news websites, consumers are spending more time than ever consuming digital content.

But one channel stood out from the others.

CTV, already expected to grow by 82% by 2023, has seen its demand skyrocket.

While publishers and brands should recognise the opportunity that CTV in particular presents, the emerging channel is susceptible to fraud and the huge demand only exacerbates this risk. To overcome this challenge, publishers and brands must work together to put in place best practices with greater standards for measurement and transparency.

Strategies have to be built around safety and suitability—while supporting trusted news publishers

While tapping in to consumption growth is attractive, brands and publishers are required to practice increasing vigilance around brand suitability.

A rise in fake news and a rapidly moving news cycle is challenging for the entire ecosystem to navigate. Brands rightly do not want to advertise adjacent to unsuitable content. But dominant stories like COVID-19 cannot—and should not—be ignored by advertisers.

Blocking content is one way to avoid running against fake or inflammatory news but it also reduces scale and runs the risk of limiting exposure to good content. Understanding how to best use tools such as contextual analysis, keyword avoidance, and content targeting can help find the balance.

Brands and publishers will benefit from a solution that enables ads to be placed alongside relevant, trusted, safe and suitable content.

Contextual targeting will marry safety, publisher support and consumer outreach

Already removed from Safari and Firefox, by 2022, Chrome will no longer support third-party cookies.

These decisions sent shockwaves across the industry when announced. Yet as our panel discussion revealed, contextual targeting is a more than viable replacement for audience targeting.

Contextual targeting uses granular understanding of complex content on pages to place relevant ads. It offers publishers another way to monetise content, and brands a route to reaching consumers, without the need for cookies.

Contextual targeting presents a new, transparent and effective way forward, and is a “privacy-safe” way of reaching consumers in the era of GDPR and the dawn of a cookieless Internet. It offers the opportunity to navigate a challenging news agenda all while supporting a vital publishing industry and harnessing new opportunities from content consumption growth.

Rather than presenting a roadblock to the industry, moving on from the cookie can unlock new opportunities and enable us to tackle new challenges.

Overall, our panel concluded that in the midst of a transformed landscape that faces substantial challenges, there are chances now to fundamentally build a better industry. Working together, 2020 can set us on a new path to a more transparent, accountable, and valuable digital ecosystem in which brands, consumers and publishers thrive.

Steve Mougis
Senior VP, Programmatic Sales, DoubleVerify

DoubleVerify pioneered digital ad verification over a decade ago. Today, we authenticate media quality and power performance for the world’s largest brands, platforms and publishers. Hundreds of companies turn to DV for our industry-leading technology and data, and unparalleled customer service. We deliver solutions across every major vertical, including Financial Services, Telecom, Automotive, Retail, CPG, Travel, Luxury, Pharmaceuticals and more.

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