Calmer waters: brand risk subsides as post-pandemic confidence returns

After 18 months of upheaval, brands are facing fewer risks of appearing alongside harmful content and fake news. A new report looks into the reasons why…

The latest IAS Media Quality Report highlights improvements across brand risk categories and video ad quality, indicating greater confidence and a drive towards video streaming following a year defined by the pandemic.

It found that across regions, the UK led global brand risk reduction in video environments, with the lowest levels of brand risk on desktop video compared to all other markets. 

The report provides transparency into how UK media quality performed in the first six months of 2021, with a YoY comparison. It also provides global benchmarks for brand safety and suitability, ad fraud, and viewability trends across display, video, mobile web, and in-app advertising.

Key findings include:

    • Video ads drove lower risk and greater viewability than display ads

    • Alcohol-related content that posed a risk to brands more than halved on desktop environments, compared to last year

    • Offensive language and fake news content decreased across desktop and mobile

    • Advertisers have less time to engage audiences in the UK, compared to global averages

    • UK experiences highest decrease of brand risk globally on video campaigns 

    • UK ad fraud rates remain below global average 


Brand risk improvements fuelled by programmatic video buys

The UK led global brand risk reduction across video environments. The UK had the lowest levels of brand risk on desktop video compared to all other markets. Brand risk associated with desktop video decreased 5.7 percent  to 1.6 percent – compared to the global average of 3.6 percent. 

Meanwhile, brand risk on mobile web video also decreased from 6.3 percent to 2.2 percent, versus the global average of 3.6 percent. Comparatively, brand risk across display formats remained consistent year-over-year (YoY), increasing by 0.1 percentage points across mobile web display and decreasing by 0.1 percentage points across desktop display.

Video inventory achieved even lower rates of brand risk when purchased programmatically, with mobile web video programmatic risk falling 3.6 percentage points to 2 percent , and desktop video programmatic risk decreasing by 3.9  percentage points to 1.4 percent.

Nick Morley, Managing Director, EMEA, at Integral Ad Science, says: “It’s interesting to compare brand safety risks to those of a year ago, when we were all navigating the unforeseen circumstances during the pandemic and a rise in misinformation. The distinct reduction in brand risk this year suggests that industry stability is resuming, with confidence increasing towards video ad inventory as the economy recovers. The improvement around misinformation reflects the industry’s commitment to supporting high-quality media outlets and publishers. More generally, we believe the move away from a blunt approach to brand suitability towards a nuanced contextual strategy means advertisers won’t inadvertently miss positive opportunities to interact with engaged audiences.”

Decreases in alcohol and disinformation content led brand risk improvements

The data revealed significant changes in brand risk share between content categories that pose a threat to brands:

There was a significant improvement in the proportion of alcohol-related impressions flagged across all inventory types. In particular, desktop video decreased from 45.3 percent to 18.3 percent, while desktop display fell from 45.4 percent to 19 percent.

Industry-wide efforts and greater education to reduce the prevalence of offensive language and fake news are proving successful. The risk of appearing near offensive or controversial content, such as disinformation, has reduced across all environments. Mobile web display led the way in this risk category as its share dropped from 11.1 percent to 5.4 percent.

Adult, hate speech and violence content categories generally contributed a larger portion of brand risk across various environments when compared to the previous year. Specifically, the share of brand risk around adult content across desktop display increased 11.9 percentage points from 6.3 percent to 18.2 percent . Hate speech across desktop video increased 13.4  percentage points from 2 percent to 15.4 percent. And violence also presented a brand safety threat, with 36.1 percent of mobile web video ad impressions flagged as posing a risk including content around violence.

Video ads drive greater viewability and completion rates

Advertisers using video to engage with audiences found that they were more viewable than display ads. Viewability across mobile web video increased from 72.5 percent to 74.9 percent , as did viewability across desktop video (from 73.5 percent to 74.4 percent). Additionally, 79 percent of viewable desktop video ads remained in view to completion, and 73.5 percent of mobile web video ads. In contrast, viewability across mobile web display decreased from 72.5 percent to 69.2 percent , as did viewability across mobile app display (73.5 percent to 72.1 percent) and desktop display (72.9 percent to 71.5 percent).

Advertisers have less time to engage audiences in the UK, compared to global averages

Mobile app display showcased the sharpest drop of impressions that remained in view, decreasing from 24.51 seconds to 18.12 seconds. Across desktop display, time-in-view of ads in the UK stood at an average of 21.16 seconds, compared to the global average of 22.67 seconds. This highlights advertisers' need to ensure ads attract attention within a more competitive environment. 

UK ad fraud rates remain below global average

Occurrences of ad fraud in the UK varied depending on ad inventory type, but still remained below global averages. Within advertising campaigns that used optimisation tools, the UK had the joint-second lowest level of ad fraud rates across mobile environments. 

On mobile web display, ad fraud decreased from 0.5 percent to 0.2 percent  (versus a global average of 0.4 percent). Even on desktop display, ad fraud increased from 0.6 percent to 0.9 percent, but was still below the global average of 1 percent. Campaigns that did not incorporate a form of fraud mitigation strategy encountered levels of fraud up to 13x higher worldwide.

Integral Ad Science’s H1 2021 Media Quality Report highlights brand safety, ad fraud, and viewability trends across display, video, mobile web, and app advertising. The Media Quality Report analysed trillions of global data events from ad campaigns that ran between January 1 to June 30, 2021. 

The full report can be viewed here.