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There’s been another uptick in the chatter around brand safety in relation to display advertising lately.  As the industry continues to grow and big brand budgets get poured into display, the scrutiny will only continue to increase.  So how do you separate fact from fiction?  How do you protect your company without turning off your internet connection and hiding in a cave?

First: accept the fact that the internet is still the Wild Wild West.  Technologies and networks are constantly evolving, leaving the chance that you may occasionally end up somewhere other than where you expected to be.

Second: take a deep breath; it’s going to be OK!

As you put together your display plan, here are some things that can help protect you and your brand:

  • Look for companies that are members of IAB and who follow the industry guidelines like the Network Advertising Initiative.   They’re like the Better Business Bureaus of the web.
  • There are plenty of ad verification companies with various levels of reporting that can help verify things like geography, time of day served and much more.  We’ve used DoubleVerify for 3+ years for one of our largest clients.  They have thousands of store locations around the country and they want to ensure that their ads are always served within a certain radius of a store.  We’re always more than happy to work with companies like DoubleVerify, AdSafe or ComScore who can help prove that we do business the right way.
  • Be careful not to categorically block entire categories without doing your homework.  For example, depending on your definition of User-Generated Content (UGC), blocking out all UGC sites from your buy may eliminate the vast majority of review sites, blogs, etc. where your customers are doing their product research.  Companies like Peer39 help us use contextual and page-level data to block out questionable material without sacrificing conversions.

The bottom line will always come down to you and your brand.  As you evaluate potential display partners, be upfront about the level of brand sensitivity and accountability that you expect.  If your CEO is going to call you every time he sees one of your ads on Flickr, ask the partners how they’re going to manage your campaign within these guidelines.  The right partner for you will be able to clearly explain how transparent your campaign will be and will be able to set the safety bar accordingly.