Brand safety, suitability and performance in creator-driven video advertising

Mobile Marketing - Member Content

Mobile Marketing discusses the importance of brand suitability on YouTube with Lauren Douglass, SVP Global Marketing, at Channel Factory

Mobile Marketing: What’s been the biggest change in the digital video ecosystem in recent months?

Lauren Douglass: Massive shifts in behaviour due to the Coronavirus have meant more people are inside and consuming content across all devices. More eyeballs means that the cost is down, with our data showing a decline YoY in prices. What’s more, according to recent research we commissioned with Survey Monkey, consumers in the US, Germany, and UK are consuming online video to improve their mood. Many would prefer ads running alongside that content to align with the overall mood of the content they’re watching.

During the COVID-19 pandemic the need for brands to be in control of respectful communications and ad placements has been particularly important. After all, at a time of heightened anxiety, it’s even more important not to show yourself as tone deaf.

MM: Why are brand safety and brand suitability important in this context? And what’s the difference between the two?

LD: Brand safety is a set of measures that aim to protect the image and reputation of brands from the negative or damaging influence of questionable or inappropriate content. Brand suitability is one step beyond this and ensures brands avoid content that does not make sense for their own brand.

Suitability is important for marketers to consider because advertisers need to be thoughtful about what they are investing in, what types of creators they are supporting, and what type of content they are monetising. 

An example of brand suitability done right is a brand like LEGO, which chooses to run only against kid’s co-viewing content with their parents on appropriate sites. It has a very strict global approach to selecting the right content via inclusion lists, running only against channels and videos that are approved and kid-friendly.

MM: Has brand suitability become more important in mobile advertising in particular? 

LD: Brand safety is important across every device. As the world shifts more mobile (70 per cent of our ads run on mobile) suitability is of course critical. 

It is important to remember that suitability is not a one-size-fits all approach. For example, during the pandemic, some brands blocked any content or news associated with COVID keywords. However, for certain brands it may in fact have made sense to run against some of this content. Why not run an ad for General Mills against a cooking in quarantine video, or for an athletic company to advertise against quarantine workouts? We recommend a nuanced approach that doesn’t just block en masse, but is thoughtful and specific. 

MM: How do you make sure campaigns deliver contextual performance on YouTube?

LD: First, what is contextual performance? It's the intersection of contextually relevant content that performs well from a KPI perspective. It makes sense inherently, if you run on contextually relevant content that makes sense for your brand, you will see better performance in terms of CTR and VTR as the content and ad are matched. 

Performance and suitability are often thought to be in conflict, but we see the opposite in our data. Contextual performance is more like a race car with a pit crew, constantly changing the tyres for peak performance, fuelling the car, and making sure it can perform as well as possible. We call this always-on optimisation, and it is a labour of love, but ensures you run against high performing and contextually suitable channels and videos.

At Channel Factory, we ensure that only channels and videos that perform are included in a campaign, swapping out low performing channels, and finding new videos and channels. 

MM: Doesn’t everyone just use block lists?

LD: Yes but block lists only get you halfway there. First, the world is ever changing and new content needs to be added to block lists daily, so you need to have a partner that has a strategy that can evolve and grow. And secondly, block lists offer a filtration mechanism, but not an inclusion mechanism. If you want to go beyond just avoidance, but actually target the right content, then a more precise strategy is leveraging an inclusion list. 

MM: What’s Channel Factory’s role in all of this? 

LD: Our platform analyses all metadata from videos and channels and cross-references it against clients’ targeting preferences and our standard exclusion list. We pull in content and audience signals in order to give insight into channel demographics, audiences, performance data and video audio-transcripts which map natural languages to contextual categories in over 39 languages. 

About 40 per cent of the time, creators mislabel their content or fail to properly categorise it. Our team recategorizes the content into IAB-friendly contextual categories. Human teams confirm if content automatically flagged is indeed undesirable. While machine learning is crucial to navigating the sea of content on YouTube, human review is also critical. 

On average, a staggering 28 per cent of media placements run on content that, if properly assessed, would have been deemed unsuitable. In today’s climate, brands simply can’t afford this level of wasted spend, time and effort.

Finally, we continuously optimize our client's campaigns so that they are sure to run against content that is not only safe and contextually relevant, but performs well for them. The optimizations we make can increase a campaign’s efficiency by up to 30 per cent from the start to the end of the campaign.