Attention marketers! This is something you need to consider no matter your experience within the Ad industry

A clean definition

In a word, brand safety is the risk associated with online advertising. 

Brand safety should be a core element of the advertiser – media owner relationship. When brand’s ads end up next to inappropriate or harmful content, they are unintentionally funding it. Hence not only are brands financially supporting these content creators, they are also spending their money on damaging their own brand image and reputation. No one in the industry wants to see ads next to harmful content, yet the stagnation of the programmatic advertising space has plagued the industry, resulting in a critical issue that is gaining momentum. 

With Content Score, we can significantly minimise your risk of misplacement, protect your brand reputation, and make your ad spend count so that you are helping to foster safer digital spaces. 

What causes the brand safety concerns? 

With the advent of the internet, brand safety entered a new era of risk and potential damage to online communities. With the invention and development of programmatic advertising, these challenges have grown in both scope and impact, necessitating a concerted effort to solve. 

Before we dive deeper into brand safety, we need to understand how programmatic advertising works.

Real Time Bidding

The activity that uses software to purchase advertising online is Programmatic Advertising, which involves something called “Real Time Bidding” (RTB1). 

When open internet publishers sell inventory programmatically, they most commonly utilise the OpenRTB standard(RTB2). . For each available RTB impression, an ad exchange conducts an auction. The ad exchange sends a bid request (a description of the impression) to multiple potential bidders. 

Bidders evaluate the bid request to determine whether it is a match for campaign targeting criteria and, if so, determine the cost. Bidders then send a bid response (aka price) back to the ad exchange. The winning bidder is then awarded the impression by the ad exchange. 

Open Internet Supply Chain 

Each time an open internet publisher sells an ad impression, its ad server selects from multiple potential demand sources. If the publisher decides to fill the impression via a programmatic auction, five components communicate with each other to deliver the ad. These five components are consistent across desktop and mobile devices, as well as banner, video, and native ad formats.

How Brand Safety fits into the system 

Brands want their ads to match the content they are confident with. But because of the nature of programmatic ads, brands are forced to cede control of ad placement to algorithms from companies like Google and Facebook. We don’t know what kind of online content there. Especially in this era of information explosion, any content can appear online. The risks of which include, but are not limited to, social media blowback, negative press, brand confusion, and revenue loss. 

Brand Safety today 

A recent study3 reveals that 5% of programmatic spend still ends up in unsuitable brand environments. With global programmatic spend in 2020 reaching US$126.5B, this equals $898M wasted on inappropriate or harmful content for brands. 0.42% of which is on URLs containing high levels of hate speech, and 0.1% on propaganda content. 

Brand Safety is NOT solved today

Previously, safe publishers can change after even one biased article is posted with inappropriate language. Harmful content online is growing exponentially. 2 new websites and thousands of new URLs are created per second. This is particularly a problem within disinformation, in which actors looking to gain financially from the spread of disinformation create news portals and sites in rapid succession, only to be taken down just as fast.

When it comes to brand and suitability, one size does not fit all. 

A blanket cover of outdated technologies, such as manually maintained keyword lists, IAB’s Gold Standard4, and domain exclusion lists/inclusion lists, are not enough in the current climate. 

Brand safety should be considered at the very first stages of campaign planning, and monitoring it throughout the campaign is essential. With Content Score, we could help build your safe list with our inclusion inventory and create safety segments before your campaign even starts! While the campaign is live, our API integration can filter your DSP in real-time. A campaign analytics and trial is recommended in the post-bid period, to ensure the safety in your future spend. 

We now have 19 models to help build a brand safe environment:

  • Spam: Spam and phishing content 
  • Harmful: Racism, Sexism, Hate speech, Obscenity or insult content 
  • Hyperpartisanship: Hyperpartisan, extremely biased and aggressive political content 
  • Threat: Threatening languages
  • Clickbait: Clickbait title with low quality content 
  • Controversy: Conflict, disagreement heated discussions 
  • Toxicity: Insult, threats, attacks, humiliation or degraded content 
  • Obscenity: To identify use of abusive words and graphic language
  • Hate speech: Racist, sexist or abusive content 
  • Sarcasm: Sarcastic content may mock or annoy 
  • Subjectivity: Highly opinionated and prejudiced content 
  • Sexism: Gender demeaning and abusive content
  • Racism: Racism content
  • Insult: Scornful or abusive remarks
  • Satire: Humour exaggeration and ridicule 
  • Emotion: Either Negative emotion with sadness, anger, disgust or fear, or Positive emotion with joy or trust
  • Fake News: Fake news low quality misleading content 
  • Sentiment: Either Negative sentiment content or Positive  
  • Stance: To identify the sentiment towards a specific topic/subject,  if a page overall is pro or against the given topic/subject. 

At Content Score, we apply our Brand Safety Solution API to ensure a brand safe environment for advertisers. By combining advanced technology with human intelligence, our team analyses more nuanced language and always takes your feedback into account. Contact us to schedule a trial now and help foster a safer internet for everyone! 


  1. The real time bidding (RTB) ecosystem relies on separating the ad exchange and bidder into two independent pieces of technology. Walled gardens and ad networks often combine these buy-side and sell-side technology components into a closed auction environment
  2. The OpenRTB standard is managed by the internet Advertising Bureau (IAB). Full documentation is available at