Brand Safety Riport 2022

After 2020 and 2021, Syntax is publishing yet another annual look at brand safety. This year we take a look back at the past years and try to discern what changes and what stays the same, when it comes to brand safety. We also take a look how successful companies can be using media-buying tricks instead of technology to achieve brand safety.

Last year’s Syntax brand safety report focused on how different risk categories change overtime on certain site types. Comparing the newest 2022 spring period with the 2021 fall period, we notice some similar results. This is surprising as the Russia-Ukraine war has flooded online media with some very high risk content in the past few months. This could point to some sort of equilibrium point for media types regarding what ratio of risky content appear on sites. However, this sort of permanence can easily be upended by changes in editorial conduct or consumer demand.

The only main category that showed significant deviation was Tabloid, where the ratio of dangerous content doubled (from 4% to 8%). This ratio is comparable to that of news sites, which was the most dangerous category in the previous report. Among circumstantially risky content, a big change was noticeable with economic focused sites. A reason could be extended coverage around the economic depression and sanction along with the war.

While looking at the ratio of risky content is important, we shouldn’t forget about the composition of risky content either. As we’ve seen above, the proportion of risky content is relatively constant, so risky content is also competing for the attention of news editors.

During our 2020 report period, the coronavirus epidemic was rampant and part of our daily lives. 39% of the dubious content was related to the Epidemic & Disaster topic in some way. In 2022, we coexist with the coronavirus in the same way, but interest in the subject has faded and now appears in only 28% of dangerous content.

The topic of War & Conflict is clearly responsible for the subsiding of COVID, which is almost eight times as large as 2 years ago. The consequences of the Russo-Ukrainian war invade all walks of life and is clearly responsible for the bringing the issue to the forefront. The share of the topic has increased from 5% in 2020 to 38%.

The goal of examining each page type in 2021 was to observe the extent to which brands are able to reduce their risk factors through directed media purchases. At that time, we only examined the pages at the domain level, leaving an important topic untouched: the thematic sections of the major news portals. In our gap-filling analysis, we have now examined the brand security characteristics of major sections of leading horizontal portals.

Examining the column-level data, we can see that, like the page-level statistics, the columns entertainment, sports, cars, cult, tech and science have a significantly lower risk factor than the columns containing the economic, domestic and foreign news.

Within the news-type sections, it is worth paying special attention to the disparity between domestic and foreign news. While 44% of articles in domestic news are completely neutral in terms of both tone and topic, with foreign news it seems they only make the news on Hungarian sites when there is some kind of disturbing or attention-grabbing event, hence only one in five of these contents is neutral.

It’s also worth noting what options a media buyer can choose from if they need to achieve a certain level of brand security. Assuming a company expects guaranteed brand security for 88% of its impressions (labeled with Syntax “Neutral” classification), only on 4 out of a total of 45 columns surveyed could you buy impressions with that level of safety. This reduces the available content to only 2%. On the other hand, if a brand filters out its impressions with brand safety software, you can choose from more than 50% of the content with a nearly 100% security guarantee.

Brand safety is not a fully solved problem today. Brands need to constantly adapt to the constant evolution of news streams and topics. Clearly, modern brand security expectations are incompatible with archaic media purchasing approaches. Brands have to choose between a significant narrowing of their content tools or the creative freedom provided by innovative brand safety tools.


The above report is based on content tracked and analysed in the period of 2022.03.01-2021.03.31. by Syntax/Neticle. The contents analysed cover 395 169 pieces, published on 4 009 Hungarian language domains. 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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