VideoNuze recently hosted the industry’s first-ever conference that focused on the overlap of Connected TV, brand suitability strategies, and how diversity, equity, and inclusion initiatives have become a critical component of advertiser strategies.

The conference was a huge success, with 32 executives from UM, GroupM, Publicis Groupe, and other global media agencies sharing their hands-on experience and perspectives on how they’re approaching brand suitability on Connected TV, how their companies and marketing strategies are evolving to include diversity, equity, and inclusion initiatives, and how these changes are impacting their clients’ strategies.

Pixability’s CEO David George and CPO Jackie Paulino both joined sessions to share their thoughts and insights on Connected TV, brand suitability, and DE&I — here are some takeaways from each of their panels:

The Brand Safety & Suitability Conversation Has Evolved

Discussions around brand safety and suitability have evolved significantly over the past few years, as industry groups like GARM have been established and introduced frameworks for addressing safety and suitability, and common language has emerged to define and measure safety and suitability — now, the conversation has moved from ensuring ads don’t appear against unsafe content, to ensuring ads do appear against content that is safe, suitable, aligns with my brand’s values, and drives the best possible outcomes. YouTube in particular has invested heavily in improving their technology and processes to remove harmful content — between its technology and 20,000 content moderators, it now removes over 10M videos per quarter, the majority of which never reach more than 10 views — and rewarding only trusted creators to ensure YouTube remains a safe place for advertisers and viewers.

Susan Schiekofer, Chief Digital Investment Officer for GroupM North America, spoke how she’s seen the conversation mature: “Back in 2010, [we had] basic brand safety and third party ad verification, and there was this big red flag on Sports Illustrated — and it turned out that since men don’t wear shirts in Boxing, [this content] was flagged for nudity. We have a long way to go, but in the last ten years, the progress has just been tremendous.”

Dani Wolinsky, Global Head, YouTube Ads Buying Experiences for Google, echoed that sentiment, saying, “I’m thrilled to see the progress that’s been made since we aligned with the GARM charter, particularly in the area of standardization and consistency. Marketers can know that they can go to any platform and have the same sense of security, and know what’s never going to be monetized and what controls they have.”

It’s All Hands On Deck For Brand Suitability Standards And Enforcement

Industry groups like GARM have helped move the ball forward to ensure brands and agencies understand brand suitability and safety. This is especially important as the industry moves toward a more nuanced “smart suitability” approach that recognizes the degree of risk within content categories that could be more or less appropriate for a specific advertiser’s strategies. But there’s still work to be done in educating advertisers on how this more nuanced approach can help advertisers drive scale and performance, and work to be done to articulate and enforce these standards across the industry. Ultimately, it’s up to all parties involved — platforms, brands, agencies, and third party partners — to come together and align on standards for brand suitability measurement and enforcement.

“The exciting thing is we’re all on the same page, and that’s the big monumental step forward that GARM has achieved,” said Josh Lowcock, U.S. Chief Digital & Global Brand Safety Officer. “The next thing coming for GARM will be, as regulators start to get into this sector that are concerned about what content is being monetized, and put in regulator frameworks, GARM will be making sure the industry is adequately represented there.”

“I’m particularly excited about working with GARM to amplify the progress that platforms have made, such that we can have really important conversations around unlocking scale for advertisers by reducing the use of exclusions that are no longer necessary,” Wolinsky said. “There’s still a lot of work to do around standards, and it’s important that we also recognize where there have to be natural differences in enforcement and overall approach, and it’s on GARM and its members to ensure all of that nuance is well-articulated and communicated to the industry.

Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion Initiatives Are Critical Components Of Brand Building

Consumers are now looking to brands to stand up for the causes and values that align with their company, but not all brands are showing up for causes that matter to consumers, or aren’t showing up in a way that seems authentic. Making an authentic impact is most often not a result of company policy or a single campaign, but is achieved through change management and ground-up shifts in behavior across brands and agencies. And mismanagement of how brands show up for causes and initiatives can have catastrophic results on consumer perceptions.

“Consumers want to buy and connect with brands that show up in these spaces in a meaningful way and way that connects with them personally,” said Chelsea Jenkins, Director, Cultural and Inclusive Marketing for the Kellogg Company. “So we put guidelines and principles around it so we’re coming at it correctly from a reputational standpoint and can drive the most impact for these causes that resonate with consumers, so we can show up for them the way they show up for us.”

Yale Cohen, EVP, Global Digital Standards for Publicis Media described some of the many efforts agencies have internally to drive diversity, equity and inclusion — including pro-bono campaigns, internal employee support, hiring initiatives, and influencer strategies — and why it matters. “All these things go into our thought process, not only to help the ecosystem become better, but also to create transformation from the ground up. What helps us to drive this isn’t someone telling us from the top-down, it’s us being able to show analytics that say 60% of consumers are now starting to buy based upon their beliefs. The ability for a brand to build trust over time is a very challenging thing, but the ability for a brand to lose that trust is a really easy thing.”

The Supply Chain On Connected TV Needs More Transparency

Across the broader Connected TV industry, there’s a big need for more transparency on where ads are appearing, at the placement level for videos and shows. This level of transparency is mission-critical for brands and their agencies to cut down on fraud and ensure they’re appearing against content that makes sense for their brands.

“We have to get to a place where we know where CTV ads are running,” said Schiekofer, “It’s better. For some of the CTV partners we work with, there’s some degree of transparency, but it’s absolutely not 100% or comprehensive across all our partners. Clients should know where their brands are appearing.”

Watch the full recordings of each session below for more insights on Connected TV advertising, brand suitability, and how DE&I initiatives are central to marketing:

Understanding Brand Suitability’s Relationship with CTV Advertising

  • Joshua Lowcock – U.S. Chief Digital & Global Brand Safety Officer, UM
  • Susan Schiekofer – Chief Digital Investment Officer, GroupM North America
  • Dani Wolinsky – Global Head, YouTube Ads Buying Experiences, Google
  • David George – CEO, Pixability (moderator)

The New Rules of Brand Building

  • Yale Cohen – EVP, Global Digital Standards, Publicis Media
  • Chelsea Jenkins – Director, Cultural and Inclusive Marketing, Kellogg Company
  • Jackie Swansburg Paulino – Chief Product Officer, Pixability
  • Larry Harris – Founder and CEO, Alpha Precision Media (moderator)