Brand Safety Content Deep-Dive

What is Syntax?

Syntax is the first CEE developed brand safety tool, which shifts the paradigm from blocking content that poses risks to the brand, to proactively targeting desired content for brands. Syntax is available to all sides of the digital market: advertisers, agencies and media owners. Syntax supports 19 languages and dialects, and provides 100% transparency.

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The brand safety phenomenon entered Central & Eastern Europe in the mid 2010s. Of course, back then it wasn’t necessarily called brand safety, but most advertisers would always seek opportunities to avoid unfortunate brand message and content pairings. In the wake of YouTube’s 2015 brand safety scandal companies scrambled to easy investor concerns and soon global advertisers came hand in hand with adverification providers from the US, tying ad spend to brand safety targets. Keyword lists and blocking reports became part of the everyday norm for ad agencies and media owners. It is nearly 2021 and the CEE markets have yet to come to a consensus over the approach to brand safety, not least in part due to the lack of data and tools supporting the decision-making process.

We have published the following data with the hopes of stimulating public discourse on brand safety and providing starting points for conversations between the market players. Our goal is to revive interest in data-based, tailored brand safety solutions on the market, rather than it just being another soulless number to check off at the end of the campaign.

Subject of analysis

The diagrams and data in the following document all pertain to the month of August 2020 and cover the content published in that period on the analyzed websites. We have analyzed 10 Hungarian news websites, based on the following considerations:

  • News sites generate the widest variety of content, so they are one of the most exciting areas of analysis in the field of brand safety.
  • The writing and editorial styles of new publications are rather constant within a given short term period, so they provide good material for comparisons.
  • News sites have the same pool of news to pull from, so differences will be more likely attributed to editorial decisions and writing style, than differing content.

However, we would like to highlight the following:

  • The data is purely a snapshot of the analyzed period and should not be used to make generalized statements of the sites' overall brand safety status.
  • News sites related to TV channels have been left out of the analysis as they rely heavily on video content.
  • Number do not reflect the readership numbers and advertising potential of websites analyzed.

We would also like to emphasize that brand safety is not a one size fits all solution. While an article might invoke dislike when combined with one category, it might invoke the exact opposite for the consumers of another. In our analysis, we used content categories that appear in international ad verification discourse, however each brand should have their own unique brand safety profile which may or may not contain “standard” categories.

Brand safety in numbers

In the analyzed period Syntax has collected 26.459 pieces of content (articles, PR content, blog posts, etc.). The most prolific site was with 8.570 pieces of content published, while Népszava on the other end of the spectrum has published 575 articles.

Origo has published twice as much as the second most prolific site – Magyar Nemzet. These large scale differences can be attributed to two main factors:

  • Origo is a “vertical” site, meaning that other than news it provides a large amount of different thematic columns and editorial blogs.
  • Origo does not share its thematic content between multiple domains, so non-news type content is also reached on the domain by users.

The other large vertical site – – was dealing with its entire editorial staff mass quitting in the month of August, so Origo was basically unopposed in this period with regards to the amount of content created.

Among news sites with lower amounts of content we mostly see sites with a high focus on news centered on political, economic or daily news (Népszava, 888, 168 óra) or vertical sites that offer their thematic content on different domains from the main site (

The most dominant brand safety category was “Disasters and diseases”. This probably surprises no one, as the Corona virus has seeped into all aspects of our life by now in 2020. It goes beyond coverage of the plague itself and appears in news about the economy, politics and accompanying scandals. A few years ago a similar theme was terrorism. The rise of ISIS, the war against it, and the waves of refugees in the wake of the devastation in the Middle East ruled the zeitgeist as much as Covid-19 does now.

In the analyzed period, more than 3/5s of risky content was contained in one of the top two categories (the other being “Accidents and death”).This shows that brand safety does not exist in a vacuum. Today scandalous and titillating news might be part of the mundane realities of everyday life tomorrow, as society adapts, changes or gets desensitized. The world around us, the topics of conversation, the way we use language changes dynamically, which makes brandy safety a continuous investment, requiring proactivity and effort, rather than a one-off solution.

Differences between sites

As with the number of articles, the ratio of “safe” content also differs largely between sites. If we look at the ranking of sites from a perspective of how many “safe” pieces of content were published as opposed to “risky” content, we get a list eerily similar to the ranking of sites based on the number of articles published. This is due to the fact that the larger pool of topics a site works from:

  • Economic, political and daily news coverage is rampant with a race for sensationalistic and attention grabbing headlines, so news with more impact are more likely to be covered, conversely this will lead to more risky content
  • Because these sites focus on a smaller pool of topics, they are more likely to pick topics with higher “newsworthiness”, which will also be more likely to be possibly negative – risky - new

This is why sites like Origo, HVG, and Magyar Nemzet have the highest “brand safety rates”. However, it is important to note that because of the amount of content these sites put out, the abstract number of risky content will also be higher. As an example, the best rated site in terms of ratio of safe content is Origo, with 66% of its content rated safe. Meanwhile, it publishes four time as much “risky” content, than all the content – “risky” & “safe” - published by the 3rd “riskiest” site altogether –

Only one site defies this reverse proportionality, and couples a high “risk” ratio with a large amount of negative content, and that is Pestisrá

The individual analysis of certain categories also gives a glimpse into the editorial style and priorities of publications.

Brand safety outliers

Significantly different prevalence of brand safety categories on sites compared to the average.

Based on the above numbers, you might ask: is 40-60% of the ad space worthless on news sites? The answer is a resounding no, as we pointed out in the beginning, “risky” is a very subjective word when it comes to brands identifying their own profile. Content about the recall of a series of automobiles might pose a risk to its manufacturer, an opportunity for a competitor or even be completely neutral for an FMCG brand. This is one of the reasons the market should not vest its trust in ambiguous metrics. A transparent, tailor made and targeting focused brand safety solution is in the interest of all market players.

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