Xaxis North America President Talks About Brand Safety

Verification technology for connected television media buying is underway at companies such as Integrated Ad Science.

It’s not as advanced as desktop, mobile and tablet for many, but it’s the next frontier to protect brands when it comes to validating an ad ran or implementing safety measures, said Gila Wilensky, president of Xaxis North America, WPP’s global programmatic arm.

Wilensky declined to put a time frame on brand-safety technology for CTV from Xaxis, but said “it’s getting closer; perhaps, sometime soon.”

Xaxis continues to put an emphasis on protecting brands — not only in terms of verifying that an ad ran and is seen by the viewer, but ensuring the brand’s ads don’t serve up adjacent to undesirable content.

The set of online measures a brand must take to protect its image and reputation against negative or damaging influences has become increasingly important. It’s no longer an option to have advertisements run near questionable or inappropriate content.

“Were in a unique time in terms of unrest and anxiety, but unfortunately there’s always something in the news like a natural disaster, war or tragedy,” she said. “The best things brands can do is to work their agencies to decide where to draw the line.”

It’s not about suppressing topics in a negative keyword list, she said. Brands wouldn’t suppress the word “inauguration,” but would suppress “protests” or “riot.” These ongoing lists need constant attention and require updating at the beginning of each news cycle.

“It’s not about eliminating the brand from breaking news events, because that takes out a chunk of topics,” she said. “You can’t just block huge chunks of places where the audience might spend 20% of their day. … Brands have different tolerance levels. Disney would be very different than an alcohol brand.”

The advertising industry has learned a lot about brand safety measures during the past year. At the beginning of each news cycle there’s typically a lot of scrutiny around keywords, “trigger moments,” as Wilensky calls them. Much consideration goes into determining if it will “become a blip in the news or something more long term,” she said.

Research to determine those keywords or trigger moments includes a group at Xaxis focused on keeping brand and their messages “out of the dark alleys of the internet” by continually “researching negative keywords at the beginning of every news cycle,” Wilensky said.

“This might mean the creation of new terms,” she said.

Based on the keywords, Xaxis creates safety guidelines and standards for each brand at the beginning of each news cycle. Those lists are brought to the brand’s lead marketer for sign-off, ensuring they meet all standards and guidelines.

Implementing the strategy includes a combination of manual and automated processes.

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