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Greetings Readers! During this week’s PPCChat session, host Julie F Bacchini discussed Brand safety in PPC, what is the most pressing brand safety concern today, which paid search platform is best when it comes to handling brand safety and more.

Q1: Is brand safety a major concern for the brands you are currently working with – and why or why not?

I would say although most brands are probably conscious of brand safety, it’s pretty low in the priority list since the issue doesn’t come up a whole lot. Very rare to have a big branding issue pop up for most of our clients. @gilgildner

Absolutely. It’s a different flavour for public sector, but all my clients are very concerned about brand safety on any platform. Protecting their brand and partnering with creators that are in harmony with their values. @JuliaVyse

It’s definitely a concern… but I often wonder if there’s more I should be doing to watch/manage it. Hoping you all have some insights in that regard! @dan_patterson

In traditional SEM, no. But in YouTube/GDN/PMax, etc. It is incredibly concerning. Major international and domestic events have wreaked havoc, leading us pulling placements left and right (not to mention all of Twitter) @JonKagan

Brand safety is a massive concern for most of my clients. Whether medical, B2B or even big entertainment brands, most require acts of congress just to approve some copy! In medical it is even worse. @lchasse

Yes, yes, yes! Our enterprise B2B clients have very strict brand guidelines that must be followed. This often precludes the use of Pmax, Discovery, YouTube, GDN, etc. @beyondthepaid

For some brand it is. I just started working with a big telco and they are extremely concerned about brand safety. For others, it is not at the forefront. @BorisBeceric

Brand safety is not a huge topic unless client is doing display of some kind. And even then, they don’t often bring it up as a huge concern? I am concerned about it though and try to do what I can to keep my clients’ brands away from any unsafe placements. @NeptuneMoon

It’s a point that needs clarification. Often get asked: “Our competition is bidding on our keywords. Is that an effective strategy.” Need to explain this is often done unintentionally due to keyword match type. @ppcClickShark

My client aren’t really concerned about that right now. Should that be worrisome? @TheMarketingAnu

Absolutely, Brand Safety is a significant concern for most clients. @DigitalSamIAm

Most of my clients have never expressed an explicit concern over brand safety (other than “use this messaging”, if that counts). But we still build our campaigns & set up accounts with it in mind. Ex: adding children’s YouTube channels as an account-level exclusion. @adclarke10

Not so much of a priority for my clients but I can certainly see why it would be important for big brands running display campaigns. @ryanscollon

Matters a lot for some if they’re highly regulated but I am curious whether we are talking about wrong placements or wrong messaging and copy? @1tagupta

We see brands most concerned about Brand Safety when either (1) they’re big enough to have a brand people want to sue or cancel, or (2) they’re super dialed into how they want people to think about their brand, or their own personal convictions. @PPCKirk

I’d say brand safety is important to more than half of my clients, specifically: Fintech/Crypto, Consumer healthcare, & Local govt. Less so for more ecom retail clients in wall art, manufacturing, apparel, etc. @timmhalloran

Q2: What is your most pressing brand safety concern or issue today?

How difficult it is for brands who care about brand safety to not appear in the places they don’t want to appear in. @PPCKirk

“Proliferation” makes it harder and harder to stay on top of things. Less control + “the algo knows best” = more opportunity to show next to less than ideal content. @BorisBeceric

I’d say partners, placements, and messaging. There are some concerns about media dollars going to unsavoury platforms (vs individual placements) but mostly it’s the tried & true: does this message, this creator, or this placement align with our vision for ourselves? @JuliaVyse

Misinformation/blatant lies, and a seemingly less and less amount of regulation by platforms to fight it (thanks Elon for making it worse) @JonKagan

Being sure we don’t appear on unsafe placements, or that our ad copy is not on brand style-wise. @DianaAlinaAldea

The continued obfuscation of placements is a big one. Growing general lack of transparency in platforms. Limits on placement exclusions. Campaign types where you have to just take ALL the placements to get the ones you actually want (ahem, PMax)… @NeptuneMoon

Ironically enough, our closest “brand safety” concern last year was with a client who found one of those terrible Google generated PMax videos placed on a totally irrelevant channel, complete with childish music. We had to nuke that pretty quickly. @gilgildner

This, along with unsavory content/lack of moderation eg what has happened recently with Twitter. Clients don’t want to show up next to hate speech or controversy.  @beyondthepaid

First thing that comes to mind is a lack of visibility into Placements for PMax campaigns & the Search Partners Network. Other than that, clients mostly seem concerned about using the right messaging & following brand guidelines more than anything else. @adclarke10

The lack of transparency overall is a troubling trend for our clients. They will pull out of channels altogether if they lose too much control.  @beyondthepaid

The videos Google makes in PMax and placements are big ones. Basically no brand who has brand safety concerns should ever use any auto applies (especially since they can change them). @lchasse

I’ll answer these as if I’m the owner and advertiser. In #ppc, I would never want it to affect my brands image and will try to look it closely at every aspect. There are aspects under our control and not. Later ones are bigger pain in the eyes. @1tagupta

Display network. Ads going into a black hole. @pixsym

I’ve noticed it falls into 3 buckets: things u can control internally via internal client prep, things u can control during campaign builds and lastly, things you couldn’t have predicted (w/o experiencing it first). The unpredictable things are the most rare time. @timmhalloran

I have long said that the Google Display Network is full of really, really bad placements. Most are just terrible sites, not brand safety concerns, but the limit exclusions to 10,000. Which sounds like a lot, until you run a campaign for a while with lots of volume.  @NeptuneMoon

Q3: Do you think some platforms handle brand safety better than others? Who is the best? Who is the worst?

Google is still one of the best, since you do not have to use the campaigns that will get you into trouble. They still have a lot of control in other campaign types. Platforms like Spotify, you cannot control what music/podcasts your ads show up with currently. @lchasse

Hard to say. I would think Pinterest would be the safest place. And the worst? It can be many, depending on what your brand promotes. I don’t see any ad platform in particular focusing its efforts on brand safety more than on anything else. @DianaAlinaAldea

I don’t think any particular platform is doing this incredibly well. Why? It is just so expensive to employ moderators etc. so they like to pass responsibility on to their users. @BorisBeceric

LinkedIn and Google are probably still the best, as @lchasse says you don’t have to use the problematic campaign types in Google (yet). Bing used to be good until they added forced opt-in to the audience network, now that’s problematic.  @beyondthepaid

The…worst? So these have changed hands over time. Right now it’s Twitter. It’s just a mess. Display – not just GDN is pretty rough, YT needs to do more, and TT is a fully automated black box. @JuliaVyse

Worst is probably Twitter rn, along with maybe TikTok, although we don’t use TikTok for B2B. Twitter is a hot mess.  @beyondthepaid

I don’t really look at it from a platform perspective. Nearly every platform has opportunities, of course any time there’s a “black box” there is less control. Our job as marketers means our whole job is identifying limitations and making sure we place correctly! @gilgildner

It is super interesting that no one is mentioning Facebook or Instagram as being best or worst! Twitter is a hot mess right now from a brand safety perspective. @NeptuneMoon

That said, TikTok is the worst. It’s gonna get banned it’s so bad!  @gilgildner

I don’t think there is any one platform which is better than the other when it comes to brand safety. @digitalceo5

Google & Microsoft Ads still let you add placement exclusions (& negatives for Search campaigns), so I guess I’d say those 2 platforms do it better than others. Other than opting out of Audience Networks it doesn’t feel like there’s as much control on LI & FB. @adclarke10

In terms of understanding demographics, there’s a LOT of spammy sales-focused bits on TikTok which I’m sure shouldn’t be focused around younger audiences. @PPC_Fraser

I delve in the realm of outbound & PPC and data privacy aspects of both. From my experience, nowadays, it’s really tough to say. I was talking with a client around how we can pull insights from clients’ internal strategies and he said there are mediators who do it. @1tagupta

I don’t run any Twitter campaigns, but I imagine it’s a mess rn too. Not sure if this would qualify as a brand safety concern necessarily, but as a general Twitter user, I’ve also seen some pretty terrible/weird/sketchy ads being served in the last 2-3 months. @adclarke10

Mediators who pull out details from internal dashboard and it’s easily possible. I would rather be concerned about brand safety from such data privacy issues than front end brand image. @1tagupta

Yes, but it absolutely has to do with your audience base. Some of them you can be a lot looser with than others. Pinpointing who is the best vs worst is pretty speculative. @JonKagan

Q4: Are there any initiatives that you have stopped and/or plan to stop or pause due to brand safety concerns? Or any that you’ve just decided not to do because of brand safety issues or concerns?

Happily, it hasn’t been the case for us yet. @DianaAlinaAldea

We’ve been very cautious with PMax lately and made sure to prevent Google from autogenerating anything. Other than that, hasn’t been a big deal for most of our clients. Setting campaigns up properly at first will prevent a lot of mis-placement. @gilgildner

Twitter definitely. Thinking about trusted parnters for display vs GDN, even for smaller campaigns. Basically how can we build relationships rather than platform dependence. @JuliaVyse

PMax is the biggest one. A lot of brands just cannot do it, because of the risk. Videos, placements, etc… @lchasse

Not really; mentioned this in other answers but most of my clients really only care that we’re using the right messaging/brand guidelines. I still care about where ads show, but we try to mitigate that on our end & it’s never been a roadblock for the client. @adclarke10

I can’t say there are any brand safety concerns which would cause me to completely stop an initiative. I always find a way. @digitalceo5

NO Twitter whatsoever. Also careful with PMax and if doing it making sure campaign set up meticulously with great assets. @BorisBeceric

Twitter has been move into our internal category as no longer being viewed as brand safe platform. We are also taking a closer look at our placement reports for YouTube and GDN. @JonKagan

Q5: What is on your brand safety wish list for platforms? This can be a general wish or specific to a platform(s).

More transparency, and more control. Just the ability to see where things run, and perhaps will run, and the ability to easily and effectively remove placements/terms/channels that are not acceptable. Ease of use in general. @JuliaVyse

Honestly, just give me complete insight into where ads have been placed, and I’ll be good. There are very little granular placements that I care about other than being next to adult/violent content which are already banned by most platforms. @gilgildner

I would love more transparency and control over the places our brands could appear. @DianaAlinaAldea

Not strictly from an advertisers perspective, but I just wish that platforms took moderation and platform safety more seriously. Some of the stuff on there is not only unsafe for advertisers, but should generally not be viewed by anyone. Especially not by children! @BorisBeceric

More control and data transparency. Less data leakage. Third party sources can be a boon or a curse. Depends how it influences and how much control it takes away from ya. @1tagupta

Categorical exclusions (that actually, fully work) would be fab. Transparency in where ads show and the ability to exclude things I don’t want. Better content moderation on social platforms. Or at least better tools to not see vile things? @NeptuneMoon

I think everyone was pretty unanimous: more transparency. If my ad showed, TELL ME WHERE (ahem @GoogleAds) Imagine if an OOH provider was like, “Your billboard served in near the Midwest but we can’t give you specifics. Consider driving around till u find it?” @timmhalloran

These are mostly for Google Ads & Microsoft Advertising, but: – More visibility into Placements, especially for PMax & Search Partners – Being able to add campaign-level exclusions for PMax – Not partnering with sketchy sites to begin with (we can dream lol) @adclarke10

This. More control and transparency. We are happy to test new things but cannot just have ads showing wherever. Need visibility and the ability to turn off aspects. @beyondthepaid

Expulsion of platforms from the ad networks who have a history of being deemed non-brand safe. This would require a legitimate non-partisan 3rd party operation to make that judgement though. @JonKagan

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