The Role of the Brand Safety Officer

Posted by Brand Safety Institute • Jul 9, 2020 8:25:13 PM

The 614 Group’s virtual Brand Safety Summit on June 16th, took up an issue very close to our hearts: The Role of the Brand Safety Officer. Also near and dear to our hearts were the participants tapped to give the presentation: Trustworthy Accountability Group (TAG) COO, and chair of our Advisory Board, Rachel Nyswander Thomas; board member Joshua Lowcock, Chief Digital Officer of UM Worldwide; and Christine Desrosiers, our very own Brand Safety Officer-in-Residence. This august trio discussed the professionalization of the field of brand safety, and its intersection with other hot-button issues of the day.

614 Group has posted a "snapshot" trailer of the session.

We'd like to share some of what stuck out to us at BSI  at the time.

Holding yourself and the industry accountable - you could call it responsibility - is a hot topic these days. We wrote about it recently: Brands, Safety, and Responsibility. This is the heart of the Role of the Brand Safety Officer. The BSO safeguards more than a brand. They are responsible for the organization(s) they represent, and the industries in which they operate. 

Joshua Lowcock cut to the chase, and summed up our feelings perfectly:

As we wrote in our own blog post:

As buzzwords collide, brand safety becomes an extension, or manifestation, of corporate social responsibility, and these issues become more central to the story a brand tells about itself. We see the role of the Brand Safety Officer expanding, and becoming more central to shaping and protecting the story a brand tells about itself.

On a more practical note, it's incumbent upon all of us to prove that Brand Safety Officers will offer Return on Investment (ROI) to our organizations. Desrosiers outlines that as such:

More personally, and more poetically, she goes on:

With deference to K. Anders Ericcson's 10,000 hour rule, made famous by Malcolm Gladwell, the Brand Safety Officer can improve the corporate policies and practices, but they can also improve their own instincts and reaction time. That's why it's worth investing in a Brand Safety Officer and empowering them as the fulcrum of your brand safety - if not your corporate social responsibility - um, responsibilities. As they get better at their role, the feedback loops get more virtuous, and everyone benefits - the individual, the organization, the industry, and if the conversation we're having now has any merit - the society as well.

TAG has kindly provided a rough transcript of the proceedings:

Rachel: What does it mean from your perspective to be a Brand Safety Officer in the industry today right now?

Christine: Wherever you sit within the supply chain, we also have to have an understanding of the landscape of brand safety and the industry as a whole. It goes a good way beyond adjacency, as there are a whole range of issues that each of us in the supply chain has an interest in. The focus may be a little bit different for each point within the supply chain, but we all have a role to play and a responsibility to hold ourselves accountable and each other accountable.

Rachel: Another challenge can come from reconciling buying guidelines with responsibility guidelines. Can you speak to that?

Joshua: This one gets to this sort of the role of the brand safety officer in the organization. Media buying as a practice often is focused primarily on efficiency, which is a factor of reach and price, and brand safety can get lost in that conversation. So a brand safety officer becomes that moral compass in an organization who can say the price might be great, but in terms of the trade-offs of safety and the implications that has for broader society, maybe I shouldn’t be buying that media or that media partner.

Rachel: Are companies finding success in showing the ROI on brand safety or in the role itself?

Christine: Well, brand safety covers so much. Brand safety covers fraud, malware, ad adjacency, ad experience, consumer choice… There's so much focus on all different parts of the supply chain and these different types of issues and how they can damage a brand.

The ROI comes from addressing issues as they come up and then being able to say I could have prevented this. I could have shortened the time to address this from five days to one hour if I had these resources, these notifications, or this network of certified BSOs to call on. That’s what we are trying to do with the BSI resource library and case studies we’re working on, so we can give BSOs and the industry a roadmap as a place to get started and a way to start to demonstrate the ROI in practice.

Rachel: Could you speak a bit about your experience on the malware front and then also about the kind of resources that you think are needed to help folks understand the problem of malvertising in the industry and prepare for it?

Christine:  There's so much to do to educate ourselves. How do I and my organization start to get ahead of this? How do I address this as these things come up? What does it mean if my users get attacked on my property?

And I think there's just a lot of a lot of discussion that needs to happen, a lot of education and again a lot of cultivating partnership across the supply chain. And then I think I would also tie into keeping track of what the folks at TAG are doing. The Trustworthy Accountability Group is a clearinghouse for a lot of the threat sharing with the industry and the federal government.

Joshua: What malvertising really brings to bear is that there’s a lack of process and responsibility taken by the entire supply chain for what they bring into the ecosystem and what they allow to be promoted in the ecosystem.

As I think about the evolution of brand safety and what's going to be next, I get increasingly concerned about data collection and news as the next brand safety concerns. That’s not just where your ads are and checking your ads. It's also about knowing what vendor have I used? Have I checked their data? Is it equally representative and proportionally representative of the population? Is it collected transparently and fairly?

You think about things like location data, which is very much in the spotlight because of contact tracing and everything else. It's great that it can be used for something like that, but that also needs to have the appropriate controls in place, and brands need to make sure that they're not inappropriately collecting or using that data because they could do themselves irreparable damage.

Rachel: So how do we support the brand safety officer as a career path? Also, anything about this particular strange moment that we're in with regard to brand safety, whether it's sitting in quarantine or this protest moment in history or this data and privacy moment with the end of the cookie, etc.?

Joshua: The biggest lesson, you know, is there's absolutely value in being part of a community because you need to share that intelligence and information.

I think in terms of how to be successful in the career path forward. I would push that you need to think about brand safety within your overall corporate and brand values. If you're standing in solidarity with black lives matter, that also means you should not be blocking those terms as a keyword, and you should be advertising around content that brings those issues to life.


Topics: Brand Safety, Advisory Board, Brand Suitability, Joshua Lowcock, Brand Safety Officer in Residence, Social Responsibility, Role of the Brand Safety Officer