When it comes to brand safety, everyone in the industry has their own horror story or gut reaction about what type of sites and contents hold the greatest risk for advertisers. We at Syntax, decided to look behind the curtain, and see what story the data tells.
Using the content published on the Hungarian web over a one-month period as our base, we analysed over 350.000 pieces of content. Of these 5% received a classification of„Dangerous”, 40% „Circumstantial” and 55% „Neutral”. This means that every 20th piece of content published online did not meet the standards of an average advertiser.
This can be seen as good news for both media and advertisers, as a large concern over the widespread adoption of brand safety is that it would render a large chunk of inventory worthless, decrease campaign efficiency, and shrink the potential reach of customers. The size of dangerous inventory in itself is rather low compared to one doomster, and even that inventory is not untouchable by any means, as creative solutions and risk taking brands might see the potential in targeting deliberately dangerous contexts.
News sites publish the most content on the Hungarian web. In the analysed period every four out of five contents was published by a news type site. We distinguished four different types of news sites, based on their focus. The first two performed rather similarly, these were the ’National news sites’ – which cover news from all over the country – and ’Hungarian news sites abroad” – which cater to the rather large Hungarian diaspora in the neighbouring countries, focusing on news relevant to them in their country. On these sites, the spread of content risk groups was close to average.
In contrast ’Local news sites’ – which focus mainly on news related to a city or county – had almost twice as much dangerous content, while only every 4 out of ten articles published received a neutral brand safety rank. This could stem from a variety of issues, such as extended coverage of traffic news, leading to a higher number of reports on accidents and deaths, as well as more in-depth coverage on local news stories, which can lead to multiple pieces covering a dramatic event on crime, that might be just a footnote on a national scale.
’News aggregators’ are the final category of news sites, which show an interestingly unique profile. These sites do not create their own content, rather they comb the web for newly published articles and create short 1-2 sentence teasers with links to the original articles. On these sites, the ratio of neutral content is much higher thanks in large part to the brevity of the content. These short synopses have less of a chance to touch on risky themes.
On specialized sites, we see lower levels of risk. Economics-focused sites operate with a higher ratio of circumstantial content. This is mostly due to the omnipresence of the COVID-19 epidemic. Coverage of the stock market, government policies and the economy are all influenced by the virus, which can be risky for some advertisers.
’Sport & automotive’ and ’Tech & Gaming’ type sites on the other hand have extremely high levels of neutral content. This is contrary to the preconception that violent sport and video game content can be a major source of risk to brand safety. The data shows that in fact this is the type of content that produces some of the least concerning brand safety issues.
Magazines have a variety of themes and show a large range of brand safety profiles. The lowest ratio of risk is associated with ’Entertainment & Hobbies’ magazines. These sites mainly focus on things to do, venues to visit and as such provide mostly uplifting and positive content, even with the pandemic they focused more on things still available. ’Culture’ sites were more impacted by the lockdown, as concerts venues, cinemas and theatres closed. This is reflected on the ratio of circumstantial content.
’Women’s sites’ deal with a large range of topics, from women’s rights to light esoteric fare, so their brand safety profile is a bit more varied as well. These sites produce safer than average content, with around 6 out of 10 articles being neutral. ’Health’ sites show a similar pattern in risk, but for different reasons. ‘Health’ sites have a very limited scope of topics, however the polarity varies, with generic topics about healthy lifestyles as well as information and articles about deadly diseases.
The riskiest profile of all magazines comes from tabloids. These outlets are the sole non-news category where neutral content is below 50% in the spring period, though the numbers have improved by fall. This is less shocking, as tabloids are known for their attention grabbing and shocking headlines, which often involve sensationalizing even regular events, in order to drive traffic to their content.
Overall, we can see that the most thematically focused sites are the ones that provide the safest environments to advertisers, while a higher range of topics gives more room for risk as well.
The wide range of available content means that advertisers can pick what content is best suited to their brand and messaging, as well providing media with the option to cater to their clients with tailor made offers. By finding and optimizing for the best possible brand-to-content matches all players are able to maximize their own interests.
The above report is based on content tracked and analysed in two periods: 03.22-04.21. by Syntax. The contents analysed cover 352 945 in the former and 422 480 pieces in the latter period. Domains were manually categorized into thematic groups for the sake of the report. Not all domains are included in the final report as categories with low levels of publication or irrelevant activity were discarded.
Syntax analyses content from two different angles: the content’s theme and its mood. These two scales are used by Syntax to provide brand safety for campaigns and they were used in the analysis as well.
Syntax classifies 12 categories as inherently risky, based on IAB guidelines: Accidents & Death; Hate Speech; Vulgarity; War & Conflict; Pornography; Terrorism; Crime; Illegal Substances; Catastrophes & Pandemics; Sexual & Physical Violence; Esotericism & Occultism; Religion.
Content with negative mood scores and risky themes are categorized as ’Dangerous’. These are usually avoided by most advertisers, for example news of terrorist activity or sexual violence.
Content with the ’Circumstantial’ tag are ones that in the wrong case could be damaging to a brand, but because of their tone are compatible with most advertisers. An example would be coverage of a charity sports event to raise funds for victims of domestic abuse.
Finally, a „Neutral” label is applied to content where subject matter is something that wouldn’t be detrimental to the average brand. These can be anything from city guides, to feel good journalism, weather reports, and even personal blogs.
Of course the above reflects a standard view of brand safety. Each and every brand needs their own approach and brand safety strategy, to get the experience that is suited to them.
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