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Advertisers and Creators Benefit from a Brand Suitability Score

Three years ago, advertisers started to take viewability seriously, debating hotly between a hard-line 100% requirement or something more realistic like the now-standard 75%. This dialogue served many purposes in the Digital Advertising market. First, it brought quality metrics to the forefront of Digital Advertising, which had previously been something of a nice-to-have. Second, it educated brands about different types of viewability, and why 75% or even 50% might be right for their brand. And third, it empowered brands and publishers to discuss the value of ads that people actually see, especially expensive ones like video.

Today, we’re starting a very similar debate over Brand Suitability. Channel Factory has recently introduced a new brand suitability score for YouTube videos, which rates a video on YouTube from 0 to 100, with 100 being the highest rating. Similar to viewability, a perfect 100 is not the right bar for most brands, and this scoring system will bring new standards and new insights to bear.

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Starting a Brand Suitability Dialogue

It’s time to move away from conversations about brand safety, which are too black and white, to brand suitability, which offers a more nuanced approach to determining the best content and context for a brand.

Brand suitability has many shades of gray. Far from terrorism and nudity lie stand-up comedy, extreme sports outtakes and videos reviewing the latest season of The Bachelor. An algorithm shouldn’t determine where to draw the line. This decision should be part of a strategic dialogue between the brand and its partners about their target audience, how they want to portray their brand to the world. Creators are also able to see the detailed breakdown of their scores, which encourages them to think about the sacrifices they make if they use high-risk content to get cheap clicks but turn-off brands.

The goal of the brand score is to encourage a healthier dialogue with everyone in the market. Every video has a brand rating, and brands and creators can see what elements of the video – its title, description, and metadata – have caused a particular score. Brands can discuss the overall rating system to understand what elements are basically suitable, and which are not. For example, some brands might want to stay away from “brand safe” creators that scream, or videos with intense ALL CAPS titles and descriptions, while that might be the perfect fit for another brand.

The score is based on an algorithm that calculates the score based on severity, context, and language of metadata using extensive, multi-language blacklists used in campaigns and across a variety of safety categories, including profanity, racial and sexist discrimination, drugs and violence, sexually suggestive, extremist content, politics, and religion.

Find the Right Fit

Similar to viewability, a score is meant to provide guidance for what an advertiser is actually getting, without judgment. Many advertisers, after testing, have found that viewability scores of 50% on certain types of content are perfectly fine, while others require a higher bar. The same is true for brand suitability scores. There must be a balance between the score and the reach a brand needs to complete the campaign without being exposed to too much risk.

After rigorous analysis, Channel Factory has determined that most brands would be best served by targeting a brand suitability score of 85 or higher. This allows for similar elements that are generally accepted on prime time TV, while also maintaining good reach on YouTube.

It might be tempting to stick to the largest channels with the highest brand suitability scores, but our analysis shows that isn’t how most advertising campaigns are served on YouTube. Google’s algorithms spread campaigns widely across videos and channels, rather than favoring a few large ones. While their reporting only shares the top 75% or so, most campaigns appear on tens of thousands of channels. A brand suitability scoring system helps brands navigate this high volume of channels with an added layer of transparency and selectivity.

YouTube is the heart and soul of user-generated video, and an important arena to introduce brands to hard metrics for brand suitability. We hope that this new feature creates a more open dialogue for brands and creators to strike a balance that works for the long term health of the market.

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