Comscore, Kargo implement new brand safety tools addressing coronavirus

By Peter Adams | March 19, 2020

As seen on Marketing Dive

Dive Brief:

  • Comscore announced a new brand safety tool that helps marketers avoid advertising around certain content related to the coronavirus pandemic. The measurement firm's "Epidemic" segment offers flexibility, allowing companies to whitelist educational content related to the deadly virus while avoiding stories like tragedies.

  • The Comscore tool revealed Thursday follows a similar update from Kargo, which earlier this week rolled out brand safety features around the new coronavirus. Through its partnership with Oracle Contextual, the mobile advertising firm now lets marketers add coronavirus- and COVID-19-related topics to any negative keyword and content exclusion lists, according to details shared with Marketing Dive.

  • Kargo will let partners change their site lists to limit ads running on hard news publishers or to focus on safer verticals such as food, lifestyle, entertainment and sports. The company is also helping marketers reduce exposure to "anxiously-charged" material as defined by its proprietary sentiment targeting technology

Dive Insight:

Comscore, Kargo and others introducing brand safety features specifically addressing the novel coronavirus is another sign that marketers are demanding tools to help them better navigate a highly tumultuous time.

Companies are growing extra cautious regarding how and where they advertise as consumer anxieties rise during the pandemic, but steering clear of any coronavirus-related content poses a conundrum for publishers, particularly news publishers that are squarely focused on what is undoubtedly the most significant story of the moment.

"The population of the country is very, very focused on this news right now, but most advertisers are really leery of being anywhere near it," Scott McDonald, president and CEO of the Advertising Research Foundation, said during a virtual panel discussion on coronavirus earlier this week. "You're getting very interesting price distortions in ad inventory. Where the people are, the marketers are often not following."

Brand safety has climbed higher on company agendas in recent years as digital and social media channels prove rife with transparency issues and toxic content. However, the coronavirus pandemic is amplifying some of the problems with brand safety tactics that take a broad-based approach to eliminating certain words and topics from advertiser lists. The effect can harshly impact publisher ad demand and revenue.

Some of the new brand safety offerings provide a degree of granularity, where marketers can run campaigns around informational coronavirus content while avoiding outwardly negative stories. But those stories can be hard to avoid, as the new coronavirus has disrupted almost all industries and global economies. In the past week, between 22-30% of ad impressions came from content either containing coronavirus or related epidemic-themed material, according to an internal Comscore analysis.

Other firms are focusing on guidance versus product solutions. The ad verification firm DoubleVerify is publishing a series of coronavirus-related articles on how marketers should handle the situation with nuance and leverage its platform in a way that supports publishers. Those include rethinking content classification, where the firm is asking customers to possibly exempt trusted news publishers from its "Natural Disaster" category, along with excluding trusted news publishers from keyword blocklists across the board.

"In general, we encourage all brands to advertise across trusted news sites as broadly as possible, unless there is a direct connection between a news incident and their brand," Matt McLaughlin, DoubleVerify's COO, wrote in a blog post.

Lucas Dawson