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GroupM Brand Safety Report Looks at CTV

(Image credit: GroupM)

With technology and a pandemic remaking the media landscape, media agency GroupM has issued a new report on brand safety for marketers that focuses, in part, on connected TV.

With viewers staying at home CTV viewing has skyrocketed. In addition to large audience, CTV advertising is attractive because it is targetable and addressable.

“After the COVID-19 stay-at-home, people’s viewing behaviors will be changed. This could lead to more opportunities to talk to the right person based on location, interests, and within contextually relevant content,” noted the report, spearheaded by John Montgomery, global executive VP, brand safety at GroupM.

However, the report warns that with CTV, measurement varies by device, ads can appear to support content that doesn’t align with brand values and fraud happens without vetting.

“Traditionally, brand safety risk was limited to digital—programmatic and social. Now, with established media digitizing and reinventing themselves, opportunities to improve brand safety practices are appearing across new avenues,” the report said. “Combined, these factors yield new challenges for established media and old challenges for new media. But there is opportunity to be found with every obstacle. Brand safety is a complex, nuanced matter and will continue to evolve in the years ahead.”

With CTV fraud is attractive because video prices are higher than other digital media. And issues can arise because of many ways CTV can be bought, including through devices, platforms, exchanges and other third parties, and the many formats offered. On top of that many publishers, in order to support their own sales teams, prevent third parties from reporting on show and app level placements.

The report offers suggestions for ways to lower the risk of CTV Advertising. They include:

“As the evolution of CTV continues, we look forward to a continued maturing of the ecosystem, bringing deeper analysis and verification capability, enhanced transparency and common definitions,” the report said.

The report also notes that the disappearance of the third-party cookie presents advertisers with opportunities and challenges.

“A potential pitfall may be the downfall of independent, third-party measurement,” the report said. Simply put, if measurement companies cannot access data directly and can only gain access to already-processed aggregate data from the publishers themselves, measurement may stop being impartial. While it may appear that this problem is limited to audience verification, content verification may not be exempt if content categories or URLs are seen to be revealing personal data.”

GroupM said it remains committed to privacy-enabled independent measurement. It said it will work with its partners to address this issue, noting that it is not only important for brand safety, but necessary for transparency about what advertising bought and how campaigns performed.

GroupM also noted that the use of content avoidance technology has been blamed for hurting news revenues at a time when viewers are tuning in to keep up with the latest on the pandemic, demonstrations and politics.

“Aggressive use of avoidance technology has taken much of the blame for news demonetization,” the report said. “There are simple ways to advertise in news without compromising brand safety, but to avoid hard news, or even bad news, flies in the face of the facts.”

The report points to research suggesting that most people do not have a negative impression of brands that advertise in hard news, provided the creative messages are appropriate. People spend more time on hard news and the engagement rates are higher.

“Marketers should reconsider blocking news and utilize their available brand safety experts to help determine their appetite for news,” the report said. “Take into account the keywords or categories that are being excluded and how this may influence the campaign and disadvantage high-quality, legitimate publishers. Now is the time to reconsider the avoidance of advertising in the news. There is a lot riding on this.”

GroupM said it has long advised clients against any blanket blocking and has worked with industry bodies, such as IAB U.K., to provide best practice guidance on how to use avoidance technologies appropriately.

The report concludes that advertisers will always face risk, particularly in dealing with user generated content. 

“In turn, we will continue to refine mitigation tools and strategy. Disinformation will continue to thrive by finding new avenues. Privacy debates will not be concluded. As a matter of fact, with the advent of artificial intelligence, ethical debates about how to regulate it will only be further ignited,” GroupM said. “Fraud, viewability and context will have to be addressed in DOOH, audio, CTV and gaming. The risk may evolve, but the underlying truths will always be valid: Independent measurement is critical, industry-defined standards and framework are crucial, and education and literacy programs are necessary.”

Jon has been business editor of Broadcasting+Cable since 2010. He focuses on revenue-generating activities, including advertising and distribution, as well as executive intrigue and merger and acquisition activity. Just about any story is fair game, if a dollar sign can make its way into the article. Before B+C, Jon covered the industry for TVWeek, Cable World, Electronic Media, Advertising Age and The New York Post. A native New Yorker, Jon is hiding in plain sight in the suburbs of Chicago.