YouTube has been ground zero for brand safety. Advertising appearing alongside extremist, or other questionable content, is a recurring crisis for brands. This has led the platform to "demonetize" videos deemed "edgy" so as not to run afoul of the industry standards.
Since The Times of London ran its 2017 “Big brands fund terror” front-page splash, detailing how major brands were unwittingly running ads on YouTube channels devoted to extremist content, many marketers have taken a blunt approach to online brand safety to avoid any potential adjacency embarrassments. While many of those who boycotted YouTube at the time have since returned, some advertisers still rely on broad keyword or category block lists. That’s proven to be a headache for online publishers in verticals like news and politics or even those that cover sports, who can’t avoid using often-banned words like “shot” and “fight” in their content.
Now, however, YouTube is taking small steps in the other direction, in the name of brand suitability. YouTube has been running small tests, easing monetization restrictions for "advertisers who are comfortable appearing next to more “edgy” content".
The move may primarily be a way for YouTube to woo and/or retain its creators. However, it opens the door for brands to reach a larger, and more relevant - suitable, even - audience.
To make that point, the article goes on to quote BSI Advisory Board member, Joshua Lowcock:
Joshua Lowcock, chief digital and brand safety officer at ad agency UM Worldwide, said, “The immediate beneficiary will be the entertainment and streaming industries: movies, television and music [brands] who have content that caters to a broad array of tastes.”
This balancing act for brands having to decide what content is too risky, or too plain, to reflect it's brand underscores the difficulty of online advertising, and the need for engaged brand safety decision-makers. BSI co-founder Neal Thurman, responded to the news by saying:
Absolutely a move that makes sense and underscores the need for each marketer to have a Brand Safety Officer to help coordinate the conversation on what is Brand Suitable and then ensure that all downstream partners are abiding by those decisions