The American Association of Advertising Agencies (4A’s) Advertiser Protection Bureau (APB) introduced two new Advertising Assurance resources today, the Brand Safety Floor and the Brand Suitability Framework.
“The best thing for the industry is transparency” and moving away from “fragmented standards,” UM global brand safety officer Joshua Lowcock told Adweek. He added that the new standards will be valuable for discussions with both clients and publishers while also restoring client’s confidence in media agencies.
4A’s executive vice president, media and data practice Louis Jones explained that in the past, media plans for platforms like TV and print included “buying guidelines” but “digital grew so fast and in so many different directions that there was never really an opportunity to come up with [such guidelines]. People were dealing with issues, as brand safety moved onto the radar screen, on a case-by-case basis.”
The 4A’s announced the launch of the APB at the Accelerate conference in Miami this past April with a pledge to provide “Advertising Assurance” through agencies working together to identify ads in environments that were potentially unsafe. At the time, the 4As identified the creation of a “risk management module” for brand safety, measuring appetite for brand risk as a future initiative, which ultimately resulted in the Brand Safety Floor and Brand Suitability Framework.
The Brand Safety Floor establishes “the type of content that no advertiser should be in for any reason at any time,” Jones said.
Brand Safety Floor guidelines are established across 13 categories: adult and explicit content; arms and ammunition; crime and harmful acts to individuals and society and human rights violations; death or injury; online piracy; hate speech and aggression; military conflict; obscenity and profanity; illegal drugs; spam or harmful content; terrorism; tobacco, e-cigarettes or vaping; and sensitive social issues/violations of human rights.
The latter is something of a catchall category, encompassing extremist political views and sensitive issues such as abortion. The brand floor particularly encompasses disrespectful and harmful treatment of such topics or targeted harassment.
The Brand Suitability Framework attempts to establish brand suitability with brand safety risk levels of low, medium or high across the same 13 categories.
Jones said the framework is “intended to help everyone think about what may be appropriate for a particular brand” and “account for the allowances that will live in the ecosystem based on who the brands are, what their values are and what they deem acceptable.”
Lowcock characterized the measure as a way of establishing risk profiles, which allow agency partners to identify media buys for brands that match those risk profiles.
“It should significantly decrease the amount of variation in the ecosystem” in terms of such definitions, Jones said. “We’re viewing this as a living document,” he added, with room for future revision “because the landscape changes.”
The APB plans to refine the risk continuum for brands and make it “tighter and better” over time, he said.
Looking ahead, the APB wants to tackle another contentious issue for brand safety with difficult, subjective measurement: the reliability of news sources.
Jones said that “fake news” is a topic the APB decided to wait to tackle because of the far-flung and difficult nature of the issue. The organization is currently discussing the issue with an undisclosed source that monitors fake news in preparation of an initial report.
The organization also wants to provide brands with a framework for the reliability of news sources in a broader sense.
“You have different kinds of news sources,” Jones said, with different levels of perceived journalistic integrity and bias. “You have lots of advertisers who are choosing not to use news because they’d rather not have an issue on their hands down the line, but news can be a great property if we can tell people how to think more inclusively about news.”