In 2008, DoubleVerify was the first company to offer third-party verification. Back then, our technology ensured that advertisers’ media was running in the correct geographic region.
From these humble beginnings, DV’s brand safety solution was born.
We quickly recognized the need to broaden our coverage to ensure advertisers were running in a brand safe environment. We developed over 75 content categories that allowed us to identify and block ad placements that were misaligned with brand values and preferences.
At that time, brand safety was fairly black and white – broadly, brands wanted to avoid negative content like malware, adult content, or torrent. Over the years, we have seen the brand safety landscape become far more nuanced, with the need to cover topical areas like hate speech and fake news, or to design coverage that is unique to a brand, its products, and the types of news coverage it gets. As content has evolved and the way advertisers approach brand safety has developed, DoubleVerify has continued to innovate to allow for a truly customized approach.
Looking back at the past 10 years, we have witnessed a number of core shifts:
- User Generated Content (UGC) & News: In 2008, many brands considered UGC to be risky content, but routinely ran on news sites. With the emergence of blogs and forums – many moderated, most brands are now open to running on UGC and can safely do so provided they have brand safety controls in place. While UGC environments are perceived to have become safer, news sites are now something many brands seek to avoid. In 2018, we saw a 300% increase in ad blocking rates in relation to terrorism content and a 250% increase in blocking due to inflammatory news.
The shift in content types that advertisers are avoiding most commonly is depicted below:
- Enhanced Granularity: Initially, sites or apps were just safe or unsafe. In today’s world of rapid-fire publishing cycles and headline changes, it’s rare for entire sites (news particularly) to be wholesale safe or unsafe. Further, brands miss a huge opportunity for scale if they blanketly opt out of advertising on news sites. That is why DV developed page-level targeting and blocking – to protect brands, while allowing for scalable media buying.
Another trend we see is that brands will bypass content types that might be considered negative, such as celebrity gossip, news, or religion. We found, however, that advertisers want more bespoke control, with the ability to select certain sites they deem acceptable within an overarching avoidance category. For example, an advertiser might want to avoid celebrity gossip at a macro level, but still feel comfortable appearing on a reputable, premium site within that category. To address this, DoubleVerify build functionality that allows advertisers generally to avoid a category, but override blanket avoidance by selecting specific domains that meet their brand standards. Interestingly, 33% of our customers’ brand safety profiles leverage this unique customization feature today.
- Specialized Approaches: While standard brand safety categories are non-negotiable for most of our clients, many of them need more specialized brand safety solutions, based on issues specific to their industry. To address this, we have continued to evolve our offering, adding categories such as Negative Pharmaceutical News, Inflammatory News and Politics, Negative Airline Disasters, and Negative Financial News.
- Immediate Damage Control: News isn’t static, and neither are brand safety controls. Many brands find the need to react quickly to circumstances they could not anticipate. In 2015, DoubleVerify released a tool that lets advertisers pinpoint specific risky keywords and avoid any URL that includes those keywords in its string. We’ve seen a 10% annual increase in the number of clients that use that feature when setting up a brand safety profile. In 2018, the three most common keywords that advertisers elected to avoid were: death, shooting, and murder.
- Custom Categories: Many advertisers take an extra step to protect their brand equity by partnering with DoubleVerify to create a custom brand category. Over the past few years, we have seen an increase in articles around topics such as government bailouts of large financial institutions, product re-calls, corporate scandals, and data breeches. This is content that wouldn’t necessarily be avoided using standard categories; it is benign for most advertisers, but damaging for any brand mentioned in the content. Moreover, it’s common for stories to fade from the news cycle, but quickly re-gain prominence when a similar issue arises for another brand. Creating a custom brand category is a good way to protect advertisers long-term against news topics that are specific to each brand.
- Protection Pre- and Post-bid. Today, advertisers are looking for an approach to brand safety that ensures alignment between pre- and post-bid brand safety settings. DoubleVerify’s Authentic Brand Safety targeting provides that exact solution – allowing advertisers to create a single profile that can be seamlessly set up and deployed across all buying platforms.
Brand safety has evolved into something that requires a scalpel, not a sledgehammer – ever balancing the need for precision and scale. DV’s solutions have similarly evolved over time, addressing the needs of advertisers through technology and innovation. This innovation will only continue – 2019 will see us expanding coverage to new buying platforms and ensuring deeper coverage unique to the content and usage of mobile apps.
We’ve come a long way, baby – and it’s only up from here.
To learn more about DV’s brand safety solutions, contact firstname.lastname@example.org.