Brand Safety: Things to Know in 2024

Aurélien Loyer

Global Thought Leadership Director, dentsu

In 2024, brands will want to keep their reputations top of mind as they develop guardrails to monitor and manage the ongoing boom in user-generated content and the proliferation of fraudulent websites. Advertisers will play a complex role in ad placement, mixing AI tools and human supervision to achieve and maintain brand safety.

This article is extracted from The Pace of Progress – 2024 Media Trends, dentsu’s 14th annual trends report. Read on to learn how brands and agencies are addressing tomorrow’s challenges today.

AI Plays Cat And Mouse

With more than 73% of global digital ad spend forecast to be bought programmatically in 2024,  fraud prevention should be at the top of advertisers’ agendas to ensure the media spaces wherein they appear are the ones they bought and ensuring brand safety.

Fraudulent websites, created to trick ad platforms into thinking they are legitimate but ultimately serve ads in a poor environment for audiences, have raised concerns among advertisers for some time.

Unfortunately, the advent of generative AI and its capacity to create content at a low cost has been embraced by fraudsters. NewsGuard, a company that tracks news websites’ trustworthiness, found a number of ads that had been placed onto Unreliable Artificial Intelligence-Generated News websites (UAINs) – sites automatically generated with the specific aim of attracting advertising revenue, while having no journalistic quality or merit. NewsGuard has already identified hundreds of UAINs in 14 languages, including Dutch, Arabic, and Portuguese.

Conversely, technological developments offer new solutions for known issues. For instance, while the explosion of user-generated content has driven substantial media consumption, it has become increasingly difficult for the platforms to monitor and moderate this content, despite colossal investments.

This is where AI and large language models could help with users and brand safety. OpenAI has announced that its GPT-4 model can help platforms better moderate content through more consistent content labelling, faster feedback loop, and a reduction of the psychological stress endured by human moderators from exposure to harmful content. AI tools have also been created by platforms like Meta to better detect hate speech and quickly act against it.

Navigating Complex Brand Safety Solutions

Automated technology alone cannot be touted as the solution for complex brand safety and brand suitability concerns that require nuance and human appreciation.

For instance, keywords blocklists, a widespread practice across advertising, can have a negative impact when used without proper supervision. These lists scan publishers’ URLs and exclude the ones featuring flagged keywords from a campaign. Although blocklists are an effective way to prevent brands from appearing next to inappropriate content, they exclude pages solely based on the word presence in the URL without understanding the context of the content. Consequently, lists of broad keywords can have unintended but damaging consequences.

For example, brands may add words like gay or lesbian to blocklists to avoid the possibility of content around sexuality, but that may also exclude LGBTQ publications from campaigns. This could prevent these publications from monetizing their traffic, which could threaten their business model, which in turn could deprive their audiences of legitimate sources of news, and ultimately limit brands’ own ability to reach these audiences.

To avoid such undesirable scenarios for people, publishers, and brands, new blocklist best practices are emerging, such as reducing reliance on overly broad blocklists, including more human supervision to prevent bias and exclusion of specific social demographics, and more frequent revisions to keep in synch with societal changes.

What’s next?

Facing new challenges propagated by technological development, the advertising industry will respond with new solutions for brand safety. Just as platforms created their own walled gardens, agencies will maintain their own networks of secure inventory providers and collections of content in specific genres from trusted partners.

This is trend nine of the ten media trends discussed in dentsu’s The Pace of Progress – 2024 Media Trends report.

Next time: trend #10 – More attention, fewer emissions