Is establishing a brand-safety KPI a good idea?

The universal key performance indicator (KPI) to end all measurement metrics; an amalgamation of all that brands care about; a compilation of everything that agencies, suppliers and tech companies are forced to deal with for the betterment of the industry — a brand-safety KPI has the potential to benefit players on all sides of the advertising ecosystem by tracking brand safety at the campaign level. But is it a good idea?

When you think about the big three elements of measuring whether a digital campaign was safe or not, you think about three things:

  1. Did my ad show up next to the content I desired, or alternatively, did it show up next to something questionable?
  2. Was my ad viewable?
  3. Was my ad served to a human or some sort of invalid traffic (IVT)?

I like to ask if the three of these got together and a had a child, a super-KPI-kind, what would it look like, and would it have any value in the marketplace?

Calculating a brand-safety KPI

The three big measurement concepts — contextual relevancy, viewability and fraud/IVT — are essential sets of numbers which are already tracked. Combining them would require a methodology that brings together campaign data, relevant parameters and times and a mechanism to weight the score.

Managing all the data inputs would be difficult, but it can be done. The resulting score could be compared to all of the supply in the market using a universal scoring system.

Scoring could originate at the domain, property or company level — and someday even at the placement level. This scoring system could be circulated and managed against by all buyers, direct, programmatic, marketers and agencies.

How the concept of the brand-safety KPI came to be

As a content developer and leader of a consulting organization, I regularly host board meetings and advisory sessions which have participation from senior industry leaders from both the buy and sell sides. Over the past 12 months, I have heard a common theme during the conversations at these functions: the increasing need for the ability to transact on brand-safe inventory. This recurring sentiment led me to consider how this need could be met.

Benefits of a brand-safety KPI

As with any universally adopted metric, the brand-safety KPI would provide a simplified way of measuring the overall safety of a media placement. The KPI would level the playing field for suppliers large and small, allowing marketers and their agencies to buy only brand-safe inventory.

The long-term value for publishers would be the opportunity to be scored on a fixed set of criteria to optimize toward, rather than an undefined blanket term such as brand safety.

The challenges of establishing a brand-safety KPI

First and foremost, it would be no small task to develop a brand-safety KPI. Implementing it and getting the market to transact on the KPI would be an even larger hurdle to overcome.

In the short term, some suppliers would be hurt if they scored too low on an overall Brand Safety Index and fail to quickly make adjustments to raise their score.

Bringing it all together

The value of providing marketers and their agencies with a single metric for measuring brand safety was an interesting topic of conversation at our recent conference. A takeaway from these discussions is that this concept could evolve into an invaluable way to further increase confidence in online advertising.

But I’m interested to hear reactions from the market at large. Does this concept resonate with you? Why or why not? Are there benefits and challenges of establishing a brand-safety KPI that I missed?

I look forward to seeing how this concept evolves. I anticipate that in the year ahead, we’ll move further away from the discussion on what brand safety is and focus more on how we can transact on brand-safe inventory.


Opinions expressed in this article are those of the guest author and not necessarily Marketing Land. Staff authors are listed here.


About The Author

Rob Rasko is a thought leader in the digital marketing industry. His venture, global digital solutions firm The 614 Group, enables results-driven client marketing efforts in the practice areas of content monetization and revenue strategy, brand safety, technology and digital systems integration, and corporate strategy.

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