Forbes India 15th Anniversary Special

Navigating the complexities of modern advertising

Ads placed next to misleading or false information not only risk damaging a brand's reputation but can also erode consumer trust, writes Laura Quigley, senior vice president, APAC, Integral Ad Science

Published: Jul 11, 2024 11:15:01 AM IST
Updated: Jul 11, 2024 02:01:45 PM IST

Laura Quigley, senior vice president, APAC, Integral Ad ScienceLaura Quigley, senior vice president, APAC, Integral Ad Science

By Laura Quigley

In today's digital age, social media and user-generated content (UGC) have become integral to marketing strategies. Brands leverage these platforms to engage with audiences, build brand loyalty, and drive sales. However, with the proliferation of digital content comes the challenge of ensuring brand safety while maintaining performance. This challenge is particularly pronounced in the Asia-Pacific (APAC) region, where diverse markets and varying levels of digital maturity add complexity to advertising strategies.

The importance of brand safety

Brand safety refers to the measures taken to ensure that advertisements do not appear alongside content that can damage the brand's reputation. This includes content that is offensive, inappropriate, or harmful. The need for robust brand safety measures has become more critical on the open web and social media, with content often unregulated and unpredictable.

According to a Global Alliance for Responsible Media (GARM) report, misinformation and harmful content are significant concerns for advertisers. The presence of such content can erode consumer trust and damage brand reputation. In APAC, where internet penetration and social media usage are rapidly growing, ensuring that advertisements appear in a safe environment is crucial for maintaining brand equity and consumer trust.

The APAC region presents unique challenges for advertisers. It is a diverse market with varying levels of digital infrastructure, cultural differences, languages, and regulatory environments. According to the recent GSMA report, countries like Australia, Japan, and South Korea have advanced digital ecosystems, while others, such as Indonesia and Vietnam, are still developing their digital infrastructure. This diversity requires tailored strategies to address brand safety and performance effectively.

A climate of uncertainty

Ads placed next to misleading or false information not only risk damaging a brand’s reputation but can also erode consumer trust. As the media landscape becomes increasingly polarised and the spread of misinformation accelerates, brands must navigate this terrain with caution.

Earlier this year, IAS’s Singapore Brand Safety report, “The State of the Brand Safety,” showed consumers are seriously concerned about misinformation. Seventy-nine percent of the surveyed feel less favourable towards brands that advertise on sites known for spreading misinformation.

In APAC, where social media usage is high, spreading false information can quickly escalate, affecting public perception and brand trust. Brands must adopt proactive measures to combat misinformation and protect their reputation. One approach is to collaborate with measurement and optimisation platforms to ensure accurate classification and suitability of multimedia content and help brands avoid misinformation and low-quality content. These measures protect the brand and contribute to a healthier digital ecosystem.

Also read: How to prepare for AI-generated misinformation

Adapt to thrive: Leveraging innovative AI-powered solutions for brand safety

The evolving digital landscape demands innovative solutions for brand safety. Traditional "keyword blocking," which excludes ads based on specific words or phrases, is outdated. This blanket approach fails to account for true context, sentiment, or emotion, leading to unintended consequences like missing out on diverse content and creators. It also penalises reputable publishers without effectively mitigating risks.

Advertisers must move beyond simplistic avoidance of certain keywords or sites. Embracing contextual strategies that consider the full context of content will enable brands to protect their image while maintaining reach and engagement. By doing so, they can connect with audiences more effectively and support credible publishers, ensuring a balanced and impactful digital presence.

AI is revolutionising digital advertising by ensuring brand safety and performance. AI technologies analyse vast datasets to identify harmful content and predict trends, allowing marketers to strategically place ads suitable to their brand image and risk tolerance. AI-powered tools assess the context of ad placements, preventing them from appearing alongside inappropriate content.

For instance, IAS's innovative multimedia technology offers frame-by-frame analysis and examines surrounding text, images, and videos to avoid harmful material. This capability is crucial in the APAC region, where diverse languages and cultural contexts necessitate sophisticated tools for navigating open web and social content. By leveraging AI, brands can maintain their integrity, optimise ad placements, and effectively engage with their audiences.

Also read: Research finds companies may be embracing misleading information rather than correcting it

Optimising performance

Ensuring brand safety is crucial, but it shouldn't come at the expense of engagement and performance. Advertisers must balance avoiding harmful content while effectively reaching their target audience, requiring a nuanced approach that considers safety and engagement. Powered by AI and machine learning, contextual targeting provides suitable ad placements by deeply classifying content, including sentiments and emotions.

This scalable and privacy-compliant method remains one of the most effective solutions for driving relevant ad placements, enhancing engagement, and improving return on ad spend. Continuous measurement and optimisation are essential in the constantly evolving digital landscape to avoid potential threats to media quality. Brands should regularly review their strategies to optimise campaign performance without compromising safety.

As digital ecosystems in APAC evolve, staying vigilant and adaptable will be key to maintaining consumer trust and driving sustainable growth in this dynamic market.

Laura Quigley is the senior vice president, APAC at Integral Ad Science.