Brand safety should be a continuing conversation with advertisers

By Mark Challinor


London, United Kingdom


Greetings from London, England.

In this latest newsletter, part of INMA’s 2023 focus on the advertising scene via its Advertising Initiative, I want to cover two specific areas, both of which you the readers have e-mailed me about in recent weeks.

  • Brand safety. What is it? What do we need to know about it, and why is it so important?
  • Optimising ad campaigns. How do we embracing the data and technology available to us and achieve the highest ROIs? What are my top five suggestions for optimising your advertisers digital ad campaigns.

Both are fascinating subjects to anyone in the advertising business, and I know I can enlighten you with some thinking “behind the headlines” here.

Brand safety considerations for publisher sales teams

It’s clear digital advertisers in 2023 have become much more concerned about the delivery of ads to the appropriate audiences, even when they sit alongside the rise of (sometimes blind) programmatic media buying.

Advertisers should only be investing where digital advertising has a real opportunity to be seen — by a human not a bot, reaching the specified target audience, with the correct data regulations in place, and in a relevant, trusted editorial environment. All of which we can provide. And we should promote and shout about this from the rooftops.

But it’s important to note that neither quality nor premium in any way guarantees brand safety.

Brand safety is, essentially, the system of protecting a brands reputation whilst keeping it from popping up in “unsafe” environments. It’s about aligning the advertisers brand with positive, authoritative, other well-positioned brands and non-controversial arenas. Poor brand alignment risks alienating and losing customers. It’s all about protecting the brand from harm. 

For example, in simple terms, a display ad for a family-friendly brand should not be shown on a Web site that contains adult content.

Elements of brand safety

Delivering brand safety involves all the many elements of digital quality (e.g., ad fraud and blocking, contextually placing, and viewability/engagement) plus data protection (for both our ad clients and the end user), plus using relevant, powerful technology, and buying model choices.

Any suggested strategy to advertisers then must include us looking at the quality of our own media environments.

So, how do we ensure brand safety?

A checklist you might want to adopt in your sales teams could include the encouragement of advertisers to work only with trusted publishers (us!) who would adopt regulatory rules and standards as part of their fabric to ensure their content is safe for their brand.

We in turn should promote our monitoring of ad placements regularly to make sure they are meeting our (and our advertisers’) brand safety standards and expectations.

Brand safety as a unique selling point?

I am sure many people would agree advertisers work in a “foggy” world where much is unclear and in which we, as publishers (the creators of valued, professional content), are still working out how to play our publisher/agency/advertiser relationships wisely in 2023 to mutual advantage. But brand safety considerations, and proactive conversations about them, can be a tremendously powerful USP (unique selling point) for us in securing budgets and being a fully trusted source for said advertisers.

It’s an ongoing debate.

Top 5 suggestions for optimising digital ad campaigns

The technology available today should be giving advertisers more visibility than ever before. This allows for more considered decisions to be made in real time. It’s definitely time to begin embracing the data and technology you have open to you, to start optimising your clients’ digital ad campaigns, and exploit as high an ROI as possible.

Optimisation doesn’t just happen. Considering your options before, during, and beyond a client campaign will ensure the best possible results.

So, here are my top five suggestions your media business needs to optimise your client digital ad campaigns.

1. Profit as a measure

There are many metrics we can use to measure the success of otherwise of client ad campaigns: cost per click (CPC), cost per acquisition (CPA), cost per thousand impressions (CPM), return on ad spend (ROAS), click through rate (CTR), etc. Often, these metrics are reported as one so the advertiser can get a fuller picture.

However, while these metrics give a “surface” ROI, what is the actual net profit of each transaction that gets generated? Understanding profit can allow better and more informed decisions.

2. User journey

Do we know what the total user journey looked like for people clicking on client ads? Here are some base one steps you can take to make sure your user journey is optimal:

Click throughs from mobile, tablet, or desktop? Are all the pages optimised for the relevant screen size? What does the client’s landing page say above the fold? Does it have a clear call to action? How fast does the page load? If the consumer abandons the journey, what do we have in place to tackle this? If they do become an actual consumer/purchaser, do we consider them for an ongoing, onboarding process to alleviate churn and, in doing so, stimulate sales activity?

3. Calendar of events

Right time and the right place in digital advertising is a thing.

We can spend much time buying as many eyeballs as we can, but that doesn’t drive budget efficiency. Getting the timing right can be realising what events like holidays (public, school), sports events, conferences, music concerts, and festivals, etc., are planned in the target catchment area — all of which might impact your ad client’s business. 

A calendar of events might help. It helps us gaze into the future for when/where demand might happen e.g., when it’s likely big numbers of people will be in a specific area at a given time.

With foresight, we can start to leverage relevant advertising tactics to ensure any needed increase in ad spend is made at the right time, in the right place.

4. Consistency of experience

This is, in my mind, the easiest suggestion, but amazingly, I think not often utilised.

Consistency is all about ensuring your advertiser’s potential customers have a positive brand experience all the way through the journey — from, say, seeing an initial display ad in a newspaper to it appearing on a client Web site. The colours,  the “tone of voice,” the logo, the various visual/creative cues should be consistent all through the journey.

Creating that familiarity is a definite way to keep them on the straight and narrow path to conversion. Make sure your advertiser is fully aware. Be the expert. It’s all part of their consultative sell.

5. Abandoning us!

No matter what we do, there will always be occasions when some users will abandon the process we have laid down. Worse is when they abandon at the point of signing up with us for, say, a subscription or buying something (from an e-commerce perspective).

To minimise the loss, we can trigger an e-mail response. The type of “abandoning e-mails” that work well follow the basic rules of leveraging a platform that sends triggered e-mails, which gives us details of opening/click rates. Then, we can send an e-mail within a short period, post abandonment. 

In summary

Implementing/being conscious of the above should allow us to quickly understand which platforms or channels are delivering the most accurate results and, in turn, generate optimal levels of engagement and ultimately conversion. The insights you achieve will be welcomed by your advertisers.

If a certain platform or channel is not delivering the results your client is looking for, then you will have the chance to quickly assess, consult with your client, then change or switch off if need be. Vice versa, if you find it’s all working fine, then you can ask to beef up the ad spend accordingly.

About this newsletter 

Today’s newsletter is written by Mark Challinor, based in London and lead for the INMA Advertising Initiative. Mark will share research, case studies, and thought leadership on the topic of global news media advertising. Sign up for the newsletter here.

This newsletter is a public face of the Advertising Initiative by INMA, outlined here.

E-mail Mark at with thoughts, suggestions, and questions or follow him on Twitter (@challinor).

About Mark Challinor

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