The Brand Safety Institute set out to get a pulse on where we, as an ecosystem, stand on brand safety and responsible media given the swirl around so many societal issues, and people-safe content and practices.

BSI talked with industry experts from around the ecosystem. What we quickly learned was that 2020/21 was the inflection point for everyone in the industry to take closer examination of the societal impact of brand safety practices today: how they are approaching brand safety corporately, and how their choices related to their brand values and sense of social responsibility reflect upon their actions and their impact on audiences. Across the board, respondents spoke to the increasing importance of responsible brand safety in line with organizational values in the methods they use with their partners, and in the moral obligation to their audiences/people.

Americans are on separate pages. Maybe we have always been, but we have never had as many outlets to express the range of our opinions – “left, right, or otherwise”, as a marketer puts it. Political unrest across the globe poses additional choices to make in terms of how we “show up” in the various corners of the world, especially for global brands.

Indeed, domestic terrorism at our literal American seat of democracy should be a clear example of how a lax approach to truth, responsible sources, and the credibility of content is a dangerous game. We saw the impact of hate, harmful behavior, incendiary language, death and injury, and social irresponsibility come home to roost. All these infractions were enabled by a cloak of misinformation and disinformation - and played it out on a global stage. Responsible media requires a commitment to be the best you can be with regard to sifting through the multilayered complications of digital media channels.

As mis/disinformation has turned our worlds upside down and promises to be a challenge in the pending election cycle, given the power of generative AI. Companies or brands are trying to set a tone for how they engage audiences, and to some degree, the world at large – sometimes expressed as media sustainability or responsibility, or brand integrity - essentially trying to correlate company/brand values to how they behave as an enterprise, and where they invest their marketing dollars as they recognize that a healthy supply chain is good for everyone and good for business.

Agencies are working with marketers to get a real understanding of brand/company values and determining which actions on the part of the platforms and publishers are in violation of those values. An evaluation of those infractions, how serious and how prevalent, can help you rank outlets based on alignment to those brand/company values, and can be weighted up or down in terms of investment.

This has set off real evaluations of corporate ideals and values. “We can’t say one thing corporately, and show up differently in the marketplace” remarked one marketer when reviewing the steps they had taken since the incident.

At one marketer, the President and the CFO are leading the charge on its commitment to representation and inclusion, so leadership takes the reigns on diversity, making it truly a corporate initiative – internally, with media partners, in its commercials, and in its distribution/outlets. “Doing good is doing good business- purpose and profit are positively related.”