Why brands should care about brand safety in mobile advertising

Easily spotted on the mobile web: holiday ad next to plane crash story; ?Muslim dating ad next to KKK story; beauty ad next to domestic violence story; car ad next to emissions scandal story…
[This post originally appeared on our sister site ClickZ.com, but we thought it was so useful we wanted to share it here as well]
Let?s admit it we?ve all had an occasional giggle when we spot an ad prominently displayed next to inappropriate content on the web. But for advertisers this is no laughing matter.
An ad that is not displayed in a contextually appropriate environment is not only a waste of marketing budget, but is a potential embarrassment (if shared on social media) or, at worst, damaging to the brand?s reputation.
Research by inMobi (via eMarketer), July 2016, highlighted in this column on mobile ad fraud ?reveals that 26% of advertisers state that concerns over brand safety is preventing the take up of programmatic purchasing (buying ads on the fly via an ad exchange) of mobile inventory.
While this is considerably less than the 48% concerned about fraud/viewability, this is surely a matter the industry needs to address.
The examples pictured in this column were easily found on the mobile web. Try it yourself by selecting potentially controversial stories and waiting to see what ad loads (often ads load slower than the content).
The sites we have featured are not implicitly ?toxic?, such as pornography or gambling, but prominent news outlets where some stories will deal with unpleasant matters from time to time.
No one would want these news stories to go unreported. But that doesn?t mean that a holiday company wants its ad next to a plane crash story; a baby food brand ad next to a child sex abuse story; a Muslim dating service ad next to a KKK story; a beauty ad next to a domestic violence story or a car ad next to a story on the emissions scandal.
The ad business calls this brand safety or content adjacency. The issue is a real one.
But preventing brand safety issues has become increasingly complicated because:

Direct relationships between advertiser and publisher have increasingly been replaced by a web of intermediaries including ad exchanges and ad networks companies.
Many sites are implicitly safe, but publish eclectic content that could any subject ? i.e. news sites or news stories/user generated content (UGC) on social media sites.
Keeping track of ads displayed on mobile sites and ? particularly ? mobile apps presents a unique set of challenges, compared with desktop web.

As Kurt Hawks,?SVP of cross device and video at digital ad targeting specialist Conversant, explains:
Mobile ad tech is still maturing and while the mobile web operates similarly to desktop display, the in-app environment is a very different and more complex tech ecosystem. A rise in the intermediaries needed to execute in-app has resulted in a more fragmented digital supply chain that is more difficult to monitor.
Text, image and video-based analysis have gotten more adept at assessing brand fit within webpages, but a lack of mobile standardization, particularly in the in-app environment, can hinder the effectiveness of these tools. For example, the VPAID?(Video Player Ad-Serving Interface Definition) standard is still not universally supported within in-app environments yet.
This is the forth in our series of columns on mobile ad quality: see also:

Mobile ad fraud?
?Combatting mobile ad fraud
Mobile ad viewability

Brand safety issues easily found on the mobile web
Let?s take a look at some examples of what appears to be untargeted ads appearing next to stories on three mainstream news sites: Inquisitr, Washington Post and The Mirror; and/or via Google?s AMP (accelerated mobile pages) search results.
Please note that brand safety is subjective, we can only guess that the brand, the viewer and the publisher would deem these contexts inappropriate.

It is hard to imagine many mainstream advertisers wishing to be associated with a story about a man being arrested for murder, a KKK march in favor of Donald Trump?s victory, or pictured above a picture of a KKK ceremony. There were plenty of examples spotted on various journals ? but this was the most controversial: a Muslim dating site alongside this INQUISITR story.

Are stories of funerals or air crashes ever a good context for advertisers? But surely no travel brand would wish to be pushing overseas holidays against the backdrop of a funeral of the president of a football club wiped out in an air disaster as spotted alongside this Washington Post story.

Child sex abuse is also a topic that most advertisers would consider toxic, but a brand, particularly one of the

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