Brand safety as you’re probably aware, relates to advertising being displayed on webpages where its appearance might negatively impact that Advertiser’s brand. It’s a hot topic recently in the press and one of much controversy, with Google in particular finding itself in hot water over the subject. Where advertisements from some of the world’s top brands have been appearing alongside inappropriate content, a whole host of questions arise – who is to blame, how does it happen, and how can we prevent it? In reality, the risks can easily be mitigated by focussing less on quantity and a little more on quality.

Brand safety has always been a reoccurring issue in advertising, with numerous cases of ads appearing next to content not in keeping with the brand positioning or context of the piece. It’s all too easy to sit and point fingers at the technology companies for failing to protect advertisers, but should they really be bearing the full extent of the liability? Improvements do have to be made in technology, that much is clear, and with the rise of programmatic advertising and the lack of transparency provided to advertisers in this business, even more so now than ever. You only have to take a look at the more harrowing of cases, methbot fraud, to appreciate the full extent of the issue.

That said, there will always be risks involved with online advertising and in reality, it is more or less impossible for a brand to eliminate that risk entirely. However, it is possible for brands and their agencies to mitigate risks by better utilising the technology on offer and better specifying the areas in which they want their brand to appear. For example, when it comes to banner or video ads on YouTube, most platforms (including Google AdWords and the Google Display network) do in fact allow you to choose which content you are happy to have your ads displayed against, and which you are not.

There is however a disconnect in objectives with brands all too often looking to online advertising as an awareness generator – a way to get their brand known by as many as possible for as little cost as possible. This isn’t taking into account the quality of the message which you are portraying and ultimately results in the control surrounding your brand and its image being taken from your hands.

The sheer scale of the internet means that there are only a small number of sites available which can be considered ‘premium’ and naturally, the cheaper clicks might be found in the more controversial places.

Agencies and brands have a responsibility to apply more specific targeting whereby exposure is secondary to results. The return? Well, by focussing on more granular targeting you’re able to maximise your spend, avoid low quality traffic and help to prevent your ads from appearing in inappropriate places online – ultimately providing the best possible return on your investment overall.