Brand Safety - how to prevent ‘malgorithms’ from ruining your brand reputation

Brand Safety - how to prevent ‘malgorithms’ from ruining your brand reputation

With the rise of online advertising, brand safety has become the new hot topic. After all, you wouldn’t want to advertise your ‘dream holiday’ package on a page reporting news from fatal accidents or natural disasters in the destination. You don’t want your car brand advertised under a report of a tragic road accident. And you certainly don’t want your child toys ads to be placed on websites containing adult content. 

This can happen, though, if you don’t take the right safety measures. In this post, we will explain what brand safety is, how brand safety hazards happen, and how to prevent them with brand safety tools.

What are Brand Safety Hazards?

Brand safety can be compromised by displaying your online ads in contexts (either on pages or entire domains) that are unsavory or come into a contextual conflict with your brand. Usually, advertisers refer to those as the ‘dirty dozen’. These include obscenity, drugs and tobacco products, military conflict, terrorism, adult content (e.g. pornography), violence, crime and even fake news (as those could compromise the credibility of your brand).

How do Brand Safety Hazards happen? – Site Mismatch

One potential risks to your brand’s reputation is when your ads are accidentally placed on sites whose topic doesn’t match the topic or context of your ads. This refers to the entire domain – and the domain theme does not even need to be within the spectrum of the ‘dirty dozen’. Imagine your ad of female products being placed on a site for the male audience. That would neither make sense nor bring any result. Worse still – if your ad goes on an ‘adult content site’ – or when an ‘adult’ ad is placed on a regular site. 

Brand Safety Hazard #2 – Page Mismatch or ‘Malgorithm’

Another example of a brand safety hazard is when your ad is placed on sites with diverse content (e.g. news sites) that may not be ‘riské’ per se, but whose page content may be in contextual conflict with your ad. For example – if you’re advertising a Disney Movie, you would want it to go on a CNN page with news about violence or car accidents.

A ‘malgorithm’ or ad misplacement can happen even on reputable sites like The Guardian website. The Guardian unluckily placed the ad of its own dating site next to a feature of the profile of a terrorist suspected of the 2016 attack on the British parliament. The dating site ad with a CTA “Enjoy the journey…Take a right turn at Guardian Soulmates” appeared on a page entitled…“Khalid Masood a violent criminal who was regularly on the move”. While this ‘malgorithm’ blunder may sound funny, in reality, it can leave a lasting bad impression of the brand.

Brand Safety Strategy – What to Consider?

If you’re thinking about brand safety strategy for your ads for the first time – you need to consider what categories of websites you want to exclude in the first place. This is where the list of URL server categories comes in handy. It contains a list of 170 site categories that have been ranked on the basis of their content, especially whether they contain adult content and nudity or not.

Brand Safety Tools – how do they work?

Brand safety tools are topic-based datasets working as an intermediary between advertisers and ad publishers. They use the Content Taxonomy developed by IAB and IAB2 Tech Lab – a group of taxonomy experts from the academia. The IAB taxonomy created contextual categories for content three different tiers, coming up with an extensive and complete system of labeling website and page content.

Brand Safety Tools like our URL Classification service work based on tagging domains and page content based on this taxonomy, and allowing you to easily exclude whole domains or specific pages from your ad placements. The domains and URLs are categorized based on an extensive list, which you can check here.

Our URL Classification service has servers strategically located around the world for instant access and we add 10,000 new domains daily to our massive database of over 40,000,000 domains and 5 billion (!) pages. With categories tailored to each business size, model and industry, you can make sure that your ad placement will not threaten your brand reputation.


It takes a long time to build your brand reputation, and a very short time to ruin it. Especially in the era of the Internet, which is very unforgiving for any blunders and immortalizes them in the form of memes and stories circulating the internet. Hence, ensuring brand safety is a must-do for businesses of any size. And you can do it easily and cheaply with brand safety tools like the one we provide, contact us for more information.