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Brand Safety in Display and Video 360

newsJanuary 6, 2021

Managing verification (brand safety and fraud) effectively is a key challenge for all marketers, and one that shouldn’t be swept aside or thought of lightly.

It can take a lot of time, energy and money to build a brand and so it may seem unfair that one particularly unfortunate ad placement can be devastating to those efforts.

And yet, this is the state of play and highlights why we need to be diligent and resourceful to tackle this challenge head on.

Thankfully, Display and Video 360 is here to help you with best-in-class brand safety features and integrations.

The ability to bid on the open exchange is one of the key benefits of buying programmatically - allowing for true scale which is accessible to all.

Of course, this scale brings challenges of its own, as the number of domains available is huge and ever increasing, and there’s no guarantee that all inventory is safe. 


Perhaps the most robust route to tackling both brand safety and fraud is whitelisting, which is essentially positive targeting.

Here, you provide the platform with a list of domains that you have determined to be brand safe.

When determining this list, there are a few things to consider for each domain:

  1. Is the content of the site limited to a particular age group (or, is the site ‘safe for work’?)
  2. Does the site contain, or is the site likely to contain, content that may not be appropriate, or could show my ads against controversial topics/products?
  3. Is the site created for genuine content creation and use? (Not for monetisation of fraudulent clicks/impressions)

You can take this further than brand safety, and consider the relevance to your site, the alignment with your own brand and/or product, or simply consider a site that is part of your user journey. Once created, your ads will only show on these sites giving you control and confidence.

While indeed powerful, this is no silver bullet and there are a few key considerations.

First, the majority teams unfortunately don’t have the time to put together a list of any real volume to allow for that scale or to keep it updated as new inventory becomes available.

This is where we can help – we have multiple whitelists that our teams at Dentsu Aegis have put together which you can leverage and utilise.

Second, even a list with real volume is going to limit reach versus the open exchange. There’s a balance to be had here between the two, and it’s a sliding scale which needs to be considered by each advertiser based on their goals and needs at that point in time.


Naturally, we follow whitelisting with blacklisting, or, negative targeting.

We can blacklist URLs for sites we know are not safe and do not conform to the three questions we asked ourselves above.

While less robust than whitelisting as the platform may still buy ad space on new inventory and unsafe sites that you are unaware of, it doesn’t have as much impact on limiting reach.

Plus, you are able to negatively blacklist against keywords which look at the content of the site and/or page. You may want to exclude ad space on pages which use profanity, mature language, controversial or fake news, or perhaps simply controversial terms or topics.

We recognise that creating these lists take time so once again, we at Dentsu Aegis have blacklists (both domains and keywords) that you are able to leverage in the platform.

Native Filters in DV360

While whitelists are great at ensuring you are displaying on a brand-safe site, there is still an element of risk associated with the content.

Display and Video 360 uses Digital Content Labels to exclude content based on a suitability rating (similar to Movie Ratings – ‘Mature Content’, ‘PG’).

You can then apply Sensitive Category Filters which allow you to exclude content that has been identified as discussing the likes of: Gambling, Drugs, Weapons, Travel Accidents and Politics.

These two filters add real nuance to your approach, allowing you to show content on great inventory which may occasionally have unsuitable content as sometimes a blacklist/whitelist only approach may be, too black and white…

Third Party Integrations

If you want to apply a little more nuance to your brand safety feature set, we recommend utilising one of the third party verification tools that is integrated with DV360.

These enable you to block High Risk sensitive category content but allow for Moderate Risk where you wish.

For example, this may block sites promoting gambling, but not automatically veto ad space because there is a mention of a term related to gambling on the page.

Sweeping Approach

The in-platform tools do a great job at protecting your brand, but there is always more that can be done in what is undoubtedly an ever-evolving process.

If you are using a whitelist, it is important to ensure you update with new URLs or apps that come into play which are brand safe so you do not miss out on what could be premium inventory.

Where you are not using a whitelist, use the Verification tool in DCM to blacklist URLs that the platform thinks are of a high risk, or in a sensitive category you would like to exclude.

These features are to be used in conjunction, not one alone provides both a robustness and nuance. At iProspect, we can provide you with Brand Safety recommendations, audits and recurring check support.