Ad Agency Group Sharpens Focus on Brand Safety with New Bureau

As advertisers become more concerned about where their messages appear online, a major trade group representing ad agencies is putting together a bureau that will create standards to protect brands. The 4A’s says the problem needs an industry-wide response.

“Brand safety” may seem an odd buzzword, but in the age of digital advertising across the sprawling internet, a brand’s reputation can get hit hard if an ad appears in the wrong place. With that in mind, The American Association of Advertising Agencies (The 4A’s) is announcing a new initiative to keep ads out of “unsafe environments.”

The Advertiser Protection Bureau (APB), announced to the group’s members last month and to the public at The 4A’s Accelerate conference this week, will bring together executives from a number of holding companies that represent ad agencies. The program will create a process for flagging instances of ads appearing in an environment that the advertiser might find undesirable, notifying ad agencies, and investigating what happened.

Louis Jones, The 4A’s executive vice president of media and data, says the goal of the bureau is to enlist the industry to address brand safety collectively.

“When it comes to brand and consumer safety, media agencies have to put competition aside,” Jones said in a news release. “Brand safety and the negative impact it has on consumer trust is an issue that affects everyone. APB is our first step in breaking down the silos to create a united community that protects the health of all brands, while keeping consumers safe, too.”

The program will aim to achieve “advertising assurance,” which is “how the association defines its efforts to enforce environments where brands and consumers can coexist with trust,” The 4A’s said in the release. Jones added that brands and publishers are also important players in ensuring brand safety.

In recent years, brand protection issues have become increasingly important, particularly on social media platforms. YouTube has made significant changes to its advertising program in response to controversies related to popular-but-edgy users like Logan Paul and PewDiePie. Publishers haven’t been immune, either, with ad boycotts targeting politically charged sites such as Breitbart.

As the program gets going, the bureau will build a risk-management module to help categorize brand risk. It will also team with the Media Rating Council on a code of decency and create an industry playbook to educate both brands and consumers.

(matejmo/iStock/Getty Images Plus)

Ernie Smith

By Ernie Smith

Ernie Smith is a former senior editor for Associations Now. MORE

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