"Ham-fisted" Brand Safety Practices Harm DEI Efforts

Posted by Brand Safety Institute • Jan 9, 2023 5:00:00 AM

Overly broad brand safety efforts that rely too heavily on automation are an obstacle to diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI) goals. That’s the assertion made in a recent opinion piece for AdExchanger by Charles Cantu, CEO and Founder of Reset Digital. “Brand safety has led many brands to turn their backs on significant share of their consumers” Cantu writes. “Historically underrepresented consumers and media owners, especially Black folks.”

It’s an assertion that echoes sentiments Cantu made, along with Dilip Shukla, Managing Director at Brand Advance, in 2021 in a video conversation with BSI’s CMO Louis Jones, then the BSI’s BSO-in-Residence.

Cantu writes that the causes are pretty straightforward, calling out, “automation gone wrong, ham-fisted implementation and industry leaders choosing the easy route.”

Using overly broad blocking tools to prevent anything remotely related to potential divisive media coverage leads to advertisers “shutting out all Black-owned and Black-centered media,” says Cantu. And in addition to putting brands in what Cantu calls “brand-unsafe ethical territory,” such efforts will have a negative impact on an advertiser’s own interests by keeping the brand “from reaching a massive, culturally and economically influential swath of its potential customer base.”

Cantu’s solution to the problem is pretty simple: more hands-on involvement when it comes to brand safety efforts. Marketers, writes Cantu, “need to transition from broad, automated blocklists to post-campaign analytics.” He goes on to say that, “brand safety tools can tell advertisers where their ads are running and compare that against the media organizations where they want to advertise.” From there, writes Cantu, “the advertiser can manually excise unsafe organizations and ensure it continues to work with diverse ones,” a process, he writes, that can be done “as often as daily.”

And Cantu has a ready response to anyone raising resource limitations as a concern: “A better brand safety strategy doesn’t need to involve an immense amount of extra work for advertisers. They can leave it to their brand safety vendor to conduct analytics and advise them on organizations to avoid.”

Cantu is clear about what’s at stake. “With more transparency and a little more legwork, the digital media industry can meet its brand safety goals without letting them become a roadblock to meeting DEI goals.”

The BSI has tools that can help the digital media industry in that effort, including links to guidelines to help buyers (agencies and marketers) and diverse media suppliers improve their ways of working together, a white paper by Louis Jones exploring how media quality and social responsibility fit into the fight for brand safety, and a checklist released in conjunction with that white paper designed to improve your daily brand safety practice. In addition, an open-sourced, cross-industry framework has tools to help you champion fair representation in marketing.

Photo by Adeolu Eletu on Unsplash


Topics: Brand Safety, DEI