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Video ad safety: an achievement or a choice?

Issam Kink


Video ad safety: an achievement or a choice?

By Issam Kink, associate director – digital planning at OMD

Online ad safety has been a heated topic over the past couple of years with an emphasis on Video content. Setting a goal for video safety is a challenge for marketers who want to strike a balance between editorially controlled and user-generated content, especially with the latter growing faster on the Internet.

What are the main considerations for brands and advertisers when picking a safety level for their video ad campaigns?

  • Controlling the biggest share of digital ad spends, Google, Facebook, and the Programmatic desks, have a clear intention to omit and avoid inappropriate content on their platforms. They are however faced with two main challenges:
  • When implementing negative keywords, the exclusion formula can only pick the text titles and/ or descriptions missing the actual video content, which the algorithm cannot assess.
  • Moreover, these players have recently moved their content quality moderation from relying only on algorithms to human moderators. This newly created job proved to be very daunting for a few reasons including the sheer amount of content (ex: 300 hours on YouTube each minute) and the unpleasant nature of the content that employees are required to watch on a daily basis.
  • The relatively recent 3rd party viewability tools such as MOAT, IAS, and others ensure ad viewability but haven’t yet tackled text or video content quality and safety levels.
  • The same fast upload pace in UGC environments keep the internet with a percentage of non-categorized content at any point in time where video ad formats are naturally executed.
  • Users browsing UGC video platforms may stumble upon what is overall appropriate content but deemed inappropriate for their age and/or culture in a politically and religiously charged region in the Middle East.
  • Video on Demand  (VOD) platforms with editorial controlled content (Series, Shows, & Movies) limit and mostly omit any risk of inappropriate content. However, regardless of the higher effective media cost of such control compared to user-generated content. Such platforms can’t fully address the narrower part of the purchase funnel given a limited access to users’data/behavior.

To summarize, advertisers should pick a video environment that can strike a balance between their brand image, the media objective they are addressing, and the price they are willing to pay.

The idea is not to be solely fixated on achieving full video safety, but rather to be open to the different stages based on the level of safety that is appropriate for the brand and campaign at hand, as well as the brand’s communication objectives.


Safety Level As a brand… Methods & Implementations Employed for… Safety Vs Efficiency
Big Risk …willing to take risk to ensure addressing the user the most efficient way when at the purchase phase –       Employing full available targeting parameters of demographics & psychographics Acquisition Highest Efficiency & Lowest Safety
Risk …willing to take some risk by having basic brand safety and yet still address users with purchase intent Added to above:

–       Negative keyword blocking across Social & Programmatic platforms

Consideration Efficiency > Safety
Safe …not willing to take significant risks however open to some basic levels of Programmatic media efficiency Added to above:

–       Programmatic Private Market Places video buys

–       Removal of content categories

Awareness Efficiency < Safety
Most Safe …not willing to risk a single video view appearing next to any unsavory content no matter the cost implications –       Mostly Video on Demand direct buys

–       Few programmatic buys

–       Few UGC activities

Awareness Lowest Efficiency & Highest Safety


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