Media buyers may stagger at how many hours of new content is uploaded every minute to user-generated content platforms. But, in fact, most views are only on a small percentage of the content. For example, in 2015, when there were about 400 hours of content being uploaded to YouTube each minute, it was discovered that nearly 95% of views were on 5% of the content.
As an entrepreneur dedicated to helping clients buy the right content for their brands, it’s become apparent that brands rarely treat that small percentage of content with the critical approach they should. Many brands today are vocally pushing for automated media-buying capabilities from user-generated platforms that they can tailor to their exact needs, such as levers for brand safety, but there is much more to the story.
You Say Safety, I Say Suitability
According to a recent study by the Trustworthy Accountability Group, “more than 80% of consumers say they would reduce or stop purchases of products that advertised near extreme or dangerous content.” That’s what brand safety guidelines should focus on — extreme or dangerous content. And that’s exactly what platforms like Google do — building standard, scalable safety standards and best practices.
But I find that most brands vocalizing their needs for help with brand safety are really referring to their own definition of what content they want their brand to appear with. These brands don’t just care about “foundational” brand safety for violent or extreme content on the whole platform. They care about brand suitability, the personal approach to content targeting that matters for a brand and its audience — from extreme sports to children’s content.
What’s fine for one brand could be bad for another. For example, a vodka brand will have an entirely different approach to what type of content it runs ads on compared to an insurance brand. Brand suitability requires a unique take, and it’s time media buyers created two separate strategies for these important elements of their plan.
Suitability Is About The Creators
The building blocks for brands to take control of brand suitability exist, although many aren’t yet embracing it. The 4As released a detailed brand suitability framework that encourages brands to tailor the 13 elements of brand safety to fit their own needs.
Doing this right is nuanced and stems directly from a brand’s own identity, media-buying approach and target audience. Brand suitability is decoupled from user-generated platforms and is much more focused on the content creators themselves, essentially millions of small publishers in a potential media plan.
My head of product is also a content creator. He’s got his own channel that mixes humor and comedy. Over lunch early in his tenure at our agency, he brought up the fact that his job was teaching him a lot about what brands wanted from his content. He had never thought about suitability as a nuanced, changing thing that’s specific to each brand. He had thought as long as he was “safe” that he’d attract brands. In fact, brands each look for something different and, as a creator, he now realizes he needs to balance his authentic approach to content with the best possible quality content for the right brands.
The more brands understand that creators are each small publishers working to attract brands, and the more creators realize that brand safety is only part of the picture, the better these two groups will align on user-generated content platforms. And, to my knowledge, this isn’t something that these platforms aim to automate anytime soon. It’s something we all need to take on ourselves, just like any other media-planning approach to content. How can brands do this?
I’d recommend sitting down and discussing your brand values and how those translate into the types of content and contexts that enhance or endanger your brand’s reputation and advertising objectives. Those considerations should take the form of extensive lists of keywords and content types you would like your media plans to include (“inclusion lists” or “whitelists”) and exclude (“exclusion lists” or “blacklists”). Both components require consideration of various factors, including specific markets, multiple languages and legal/regulatory requirements, which may place targeting restrictions on a brand (for example, COPPA compliance in the United States, which limits data collection/retargeting against minors).
Not only are there millions of content creators delivering high-quality content, but there is also a different media plan for every single brand. I often find that brands constantly discover new pockets of content, new channels and new creators that offer excellent content targeting. This comes out most when a brand does the work to define a brand suitability approach.