This interview was originally posted on the Taboola Blog.
Ahead of the Cannes Lions International Festival of Creativity next week, we wanted to get ahead one of the major topics that brands continue to be interested in this year—brand safety.
We sat down with one of our neighbors at the festival, Mark Pearlstein, CRO at DoubleVerify, to talk to him about some of the challenges brands are facing with brand safety today.
Pearlstein discussed the challenges in detail and revealed a three-part brand safety strategy everyone should have in place to be successful in today’s landscape.
Interview with Mark Pearlstein, CRO of DoubleVerify
Q: Can you tell me a little bit about yourself, and DoubleVerify?
“I’ve been with DoubleVerify for eight years now. Eight years ago, I was looking around the space for my next opportunity, and one of the big highlights at DoubleVerify for me was the opportunity to be away from both the media selling and the media buying side—the transaction itself. Living on top of the transaction as a third-party was very attractive to me, because we can be the voice of truth without taking sides. We can provide unbiased, unfettered information about what happens in the ecosystem.
We work with many of the world’s largest global brands to authenticate the quality of the digital media. Today, everybody knows the challenges of digital media, and it’s unfortunate that just a few bad actors can spoil the entire industry. When people talk about the problems we face, it’s really an isolated small group of troublemakers that can cause big trouble for everyone.
We proactively identify these bad actors and give brands the clarity and confidence to continue to invest in the space.”
Q: Do you have tips for advertisers looking to stay brand safe in an ad-tech landscape that’s evolving?
“First, it’s important for brands to understand that every brand is unique. We talk about brand safety as if it’s a binary decision, like you can know it when you see it—there are some things, like pornography, that are immediately identified as ‘not brand safe’ for everyone.
That’s not really the issue. What brands really need to be thinking about today is brand relevance. For example—if you’re an energy drink, a web page with content about how to make a cocktail is perfectly fine for you, whereas it might not be for a kids’ toy brand.
Brands need to understand that being ‘brand safe’ is about understanding your brand image and partnering with someone that can be as granular as you need to be to control your placements within your guidelines.
Second, we have to consider the other interesting thing that’s happened—the rise of fake news. In addition to considering whether or not content is good or bad for a brand, now we have to consider truthfulness. All content on the web used to be thought of as truthful. Now you have a mix.
It’s critical that brands understand that fake news has a huge impact on brand image. The contents’ context might be relevant, but the fact that it’s fake will always be bad.
It’s also important to understand the distinction between satire, which is intended to be comedic versus fake news which is intended to trick you into believing it’s real.
Third, brand safety is a global issue—within certain regions, you see much higher rates of brand safety issues than others. For example, in the Middle East, exposure to skin is viewed differently, and you might see higher brand safety incidents there than other regions.
Brand needs to consider a combination of all three of these things—context of content, truthfulness of content and social norms and values, to truly be brand safe.
Q: We’re all focused on GDPR as of late. How has GDPR impacted verification products or services?
“The impact of GDPR on verification companies is negligible. The biggest impact comes down to geo-verification services, and the good news is it’s very easy to turn off those services if that’s what the user wants.
The better news for the industry is the rise of core values about clarity, transparency and trust remain. We by definition don’t do anything to track the user—verification may be the only part of the ecosystem not adversely affected by GDPR.”
Q: Do you have any advice for the creatives at Cannes looking to stay as creative as possible in the face of brand safety challenges?
“The value of DoubleVerify and verification at large is that we provide the solution creatives need to face the challenges of today—particularly on brand safety and fraud where we literally stop ads from serving where they don’t want them to. It’s active protection.
You end up serving only in high-quality environments, and this gives creatives a much better palette to blossom. Now, you can take your creativity to the next level, and truly understand the impact of your KPIs.
So, creatives, experiment. Go ahead and raise the volume on your videos, go full screen, and much more. The metrics that show whether or not a user is truly impacted by the ad. Without support from an independent, third-party like DoubleVerify, 20% of their data could come from a place the brand didn’t really want to be served, therefore the creative impact is mitigated. With us, the value of the data you’re getting back is much more valuable.
They can be creative in environments that are high quality to them.”
Q: What will you be doing at Cannes, and where can attendees find you?
“Marketers were inspired when Marc Pritchard got up on the stage at IAB to issue his rallying cry for transparency. This is the pinnacle of what’s going to happen with brand safety, and what we’re actually seeing this year at Cannes is a mass-market movement towards not only interest in brand safety but what can actually be done about it.
While P&G heightened market awareness, we’re now at the point where everyone is taking action, and we’re seeing a high sense of urgency to understand the problem and do something about it.”