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How marketers are preparing to meet a new set of challenges in programmatic advertising
By GumGum.
Illustrations courtesy of GumGum.

Marketers are now thinking of brand safety in broader terms of suitability. Namely, they are seeking to keep their brands away from sensitive cultural guardrails while at the same time maximizing their advertising dollars through contextually relevant content. Achieving this balance requires a deep understanding of brand values, strategic planning and a nuanced application of advanced tools and technology.

According to our new report based on a 2017-2018 BrandRx study on brand safety and a series of one-on-one interviews, “We Brake for BrandRx: Moving Brands Beyond the Block List,” digital marketers are progressing from issues of brand safety to “suitability” by demanding third-party verification from partners and generally becoming more sophisticated when evaluating and executing contextual alignments. Yet marketers continue to grapple with finding the tools that deliver the right environment without sacrificing reach or effectiveness.


Nearly across the board, the individuals we spoke with said that a combination of new technology and human oversight has paved the way for improved brand safety. Blacklists, natural-language context detection, image recognition and direct relationships with publishers were among the most frequently mentioned tools to achieve optimal ad placements. Here are some lessons we learned along the road:

  • Choose the right tools: Media buyers can use many of the tools they use to meet brand safety and suitability standards to align ads with the content they want. Whitelists and direct deals offer a broad-strokes approach, while natural-language processing, image recognition and keyword searches allow for automated efforts at scale.
  • Don’t throw out the baby with bathwater: Marketers generally use the same tools to avoid unsuitable content as they do to block unsafe content, though few had considered the consequences of writing off broad swaths of categories, formats or subject matter.
  • Marketers need a fundamental truth engine for advertising: To ensure that brands and agencies get the full contextual picture, GumGum has introduced a new product, Verity, which uses computer vision and natural-language processing to understand all three categories of text, images and videos that appear on every page of the internet in order to target the good, and avoid the bad.

To stay ahead of the curve, marketers will have to start thinking beyond basic safety and suitability measures. By bringing together creative talent, public relations strategy, media buyers and technology vendors, brands can find ways to determine not only the content they should avoid but the content they should seek out. This new affirmative approach is poised to move brands forward from safety to suitability and, eventually, fitness.

Founded in 2008 in Santa Monica, California, GumGum is a company dedicated to teaching machines to see in order to solve hard problems. Our proprietary computer vision technology uncovers key contextual information from text and image content on premium publishers all over the world. By unlocking this hidden value, we enable advertisers to deliver highly relevant messages to their most valuable consumers. And with our highly visible, deeply engaging ad units, we make sure every customer enjoys the quality user experience they deserve. Together, the GumGum advertising suite has all the integrated options you need for an effective digital marketing strategy.
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