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What Defines a Brand-Safe Publisher?


By Tad Richardson Co-Founder and Principal, Hi Pop! Media

Brand safety in programmatic media is far from a new topic, but the latest uproar is the one for which we’ve been anxiously waiting! In fact, we’ve hedged our bets on the pants being pulled down on an industry that has long been slanted in favor of self-serving publishers, by building a digital media agency that shows all types of advertisers how to use programmatic technology to their distinct advantage.

The last time brand safety became a major topic, it was over threats of “bots” and other malicious programs that hijack impressions and generate false clicks. This initial scare gave birth to verification and tracking services – and the ludicrous concept that advertisers have to pay for additional services to ensure their campaigns are cleanly run.

Going back even further, content integrity was actually one of the very first issues tackled by the early ad networks – who allowed advertisers to block sites with graphic and incentivized content – but this was largely before the proliferation of UGC and Viral Content sites that we see today.

So as we reconsider the topic of content integrity today, more and more of us like JB Brokaw of Sociomantic Labs North America, are asking the question “what exactly defines a brand-safe site?” Having run campaigns exclusively on curated sitelists for the past two years, we at Hi Pop! Media believe we have the answer to that question:

In a word, Trustworthiness.

So what defines trustworthy? In a recent review of nearly 45MM impressions we served for 18 individual advertisers, we can see two very distinct trends in the publisher brands that generate deep content engagement for advertisers vs. those that do little more than eat-up impressions and generate dead-end clicks.

The top 20 publishers in our review account for 46% of total campaign engagement and conversion activity. With the exception of one digital audio site (that falls under the utilitarian category) none of these publishers’ sole purpose is to entertain us. They’re all widely trusted brands that inform us and/or are utilitarian to our lives, falling into 6 categories: Portals; News; Weather; Shopping; Real Estate; and Resource.

Even as we move down our list and start seeing Entertainment, Sports, and Lifestyle publishers, the clear differentiator between publishers that are good for advertisers and those that are bad, is the quality of their content strategy and site design. Put simply, there are many great publishers who care about their own brand integrity, quality of their content, and user experience – but sadly, far more who don’t.

One of the unfortunate side effects of our industry are the opportunists who use the formula of sensationalistic content + confusing gallery format + click-bait social media promotion to generate page views and clicks and effectively steal your media budget – all in the name of “scale.”

Hi Pop! Media was built on the belief that advertisers shouldn’t have to pay extra for baseline brand safety measures that they deserve (and should demand.) With a mix of curated brand-safe sitelists and private marketplace buys, we’re driving improved performance for clients across all verticals. We’re deeply proud of our campaign results and the media transparency that is core to our business.

“Scale” is a 4-letter word as far as we’re concerned. Brands don’t need more impressions, they need better ones!

Hi Pop! Media

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