Over the past several months, we’ve watched the largest video platforms make large-scale improvements to address brand safety. They honed their filters, updated their monetization policies, invited top independent measurement providers to the table and improved transparency.
It’s clear that the platforms feel and bear the burden of eliminating brand-unsafe content – the undeniably reprehensible videos that no advertiser would want to appear beside.
Major brands that have prioritized video within their marketing mix are now learning that brand safety is one thing and brand suitability is quite another. It is increasingly clear that the responsibility for the latter falls to the brand team. Brands are actively involved in conversations about how to determine what is and is not acceptable content and how to best render the resulting brand suitability policy into their media-buying practices.
Procter & Gamble is a great example. The P&G team partnered with its agencies and spent the better part of a year developing its policy and strategy for targeting suitable content before reactivating spend on YouTube.
Many of the world’s largest brands are doing the same. If your brand has equity, integrity and identity, then you have to take responsibility for the nature of the content it appears beside.
Playing in the gray
Content exists on a spectrum. If you consider the total volume of video content online, there’s some portion that is clearly unsafe for brands due to its illicit nature. That perilous portion is the responsibility of the platform to filter or purge, whether by algorithm or by hand. On the other end of the spectrum, there is some content that is clearly premium, produced by reputable publishers about broadly acceptable topics and featuring broadly acceptable language and visuals.
But most content – particularly in the realm of social video – falls into a gray zone that is highly subjective. This is where a brand’s own standards for suitability and developing a concrete policy come into play. A brand that targets teenage boys will associate with content that may not be suitable for a general lifestyle brand.
Post-campaign is too late
It’s not enough to find out after a campaign is over that a brand was exposed to unsavory content. It might ask for a make-good, but the damage is done. Even if that impression wasn’t captured in the press, the brand’s reputation took a hit, whether it knows it or not.
This is why having the tough conversations and authoring a policy before the campaign runs is critical.
It’s time to get weird
As marketers come to the table to begin formulating brand suitability standards, they must understand the environment in which those standards will be applied.
In terms of digital video, this means getting a grip on the wild and weird worlds of the largest social platforms. The best way to do that is to start spending some serious time with the content. Search for things like “prank,” “twerk,” “minecraft” and “nursery rhymes.” Much of the content encountered in a broadly focused sweep could seem strange, unintelligible and ridiculous to a marketing executive, but that doesn’t mean it isn’t valuable.
In the eyes of another audience – potentially that marketer’s target audience – it’s binge-worthy. And today, that equals gold.
Categories: Social Media