The State of Brand Safety in Canada: 2019 Barometer Report Highlights

The findings from our 2nd annual Brand Safety Barometer report were presented this week at the Business of Digital – Brand Safety Event in Toronto.

The report confirmed our member survey results from Q4 of 2018, that Brand Safety is top of mind for advertisers and that it remains a serious concern to brands. With recent news stories exacerbating the issue, we were relieved to report that the most prominent area of misaligned content was around negative or “fake” news content rather than the darker more nefarious areas that can lead to more devastating headlines.

Although overall incidents are reportedly down this year, our survey suggested that there is some building pressure on scale as advertisers work to reign in their exposure. When advertisers work from a tighter inventory pool and place several (warranted) filters on impressions, the costs will escalate. As we see this pressure build, it is natural that the conversation around valuation and pricing adjustments to online media will re-emerge. With platforms continuing to invest in securing content streams and third-party verification entities refining their offerings, the cost of risk aversion will inevitably continue to grow. On a positive note, presumably, the effectiveness will steadily increase followed by an appetite for smarter, secured investments.

Our report also revealed that there is work to be done on deployment of preventative measures. We’ve noted that technology continues to become more refined, but despite the progress, over 50% of respondents were not very familiar with the tools available to help provide brand safety. It is also important to note that while technical tactics like white and black listing are on the rise, it remains critical for buyers to deploy a multi-tiered approach to their risk-averse media buying strategy.

While mainstream news headlines continue to evoke a perception that the industry is plagued with unsafe inventory, the prognosis is quite optimistic. The survey showed a general opinion that the brand safety issues have become stabilized and as the discussions unfolded during the event this week, it was clear that the industry was not taking a back seat on ensuring safety for all advertisers across all platforms.

Perhaps the biggest take-away was the need for vigilance across all industry stakeholders. Best practices described in IAB Canada’s Agency Council white paper published late 2017, combined with publishers and platforms continued investments in machine and human moderating make a difference.