GumGum x socialcontext Partnership: How Advanced Contextual Tech Can Help You Drive More Equity in Advertising

Brand safety has evolved alongside programmatic advertising over the years, coming to the forefront in the late aughts as brands sought to protect their brand image and customer relationships. As such, brand safety has been a common practice for advertisers over the last decade – without much evolution or consideration of the larger effects of commonplace brand safety tactics. The state of brand safety today is broken because blunt tactics like keyword blocking remain the status quo and negatively affect multicultural and non majority communities. Brands should absolutely be cautious and intentional about where their ads appear, but they also must be thoughtful and intentional in their brand safety strategies. 

When brands use status quo brand safety measures, they’re using a broad stroke safety effort that eliminates ad alignments on important journalism, thus removing funding from newsrooms. In the first quarter of 2024 alone, big names in media, such as CNN, the LA Times, Vox, Business Insider, CNBC, Gannett and others have had to reduce their journalism workforce, some by more than 20%, due to a lack of revenue(source). Intentional brand safety alignments should be implemented to support important local and national journalism by aligning advertising opportunities with media that is sharing critical information and funding journalism that communities rely on. 

Status quo brand safety is not the only choice brands have to drive outcomes and align with campaign goals – there are technologies like advanced contextual that are primed to help brands reach goals and drive more equity in advertising representation and ad spend. Let’s dive deeper. 

So What Exactly is Brand Safety?

As a whole, brand safety refers to the measures and practices taken by advertisers and publishers to ensure that a brand's advertisements or content appear in suitable and appropriate environments. Brand safety encompasses various aspects, including the context in which ads are displayed, the content with which they're associated, and the platforms on which they appear.

While most brands will opt to programmatically align their ads only on premium inventory and avoid the IAB unsafe content categories, they’ll often include a blunt blocklist of sites or keywords that they want to avoid aligning their brand with. These additional restrictions can be to avoid topics such as alcohol or smoking-related content, global violence, and political news.

Brands will implement brand safety measures for a number of reasons, but the technology for brand safety can often be a blanketed approach that misses greater context within an article or site, blocking content that actually is perfectly safe to advertise against.

How Status quo Brand Safety Lacks Nuance and Misses the Mark. 

Many brand safety measures use a process called keyword blocking. This practice allows advertisers to prevent their ads from appearing alongside certain words or phrases to avoid either controversy or being associated with a topic that they think might harm their brand reputation. Not only does this unmonitored practice not allow for nuance, it’s often biased, with some Black-owned publishers seeing up to 37% of their content miscategorized as violent, sexual, or political for certain campaigns (source).

These blanket parameters currently utilize keyword blocks that remove as many as 3,000 keywords for every ad campaign (source). That’s a lot of blunt blocking on terms that are used innocently in many cases. Without intelligence to help understand the context of the keywords that are being blocked, ad blocking has cost U.S. publishers approximately $9 billion in lost revenue (source). 

For example, an article published by the Washington Post about George Floyd and the influence his death is having on affordable housing in D.C. would be labeled by most brand safety technology measures as an unsafe ad environment due to mentions of politics, police, death, and what would be listed as a negative sentiment. The article, is in fact, a positive one highlighting how measures are being implemented to make housing more affordable for citizens of the nation’s capital. 

Illustration how of how blunt lists are harmful for content classification when it comes to brand safety

While the article mentioned in this example may not be for all brands, those that celebrate racial equality would be remiss not to consider it. Too often, this process eliminates good news content from programmatic advertising alignment, thus removing advertising revenue that supports, highlights, and uplifts underrepresented consumers and media owners within communities of color. 

A Solve for Some Brand Safety Blind Spots. 

The answer for this problem? Contextual intelligence trained and monitored by human analysis to align advertisers with media and publishing partners who are sharing socially positive and insightful content about multicultural audiences, on multicultural platforms. 

The team at socialcontext, a contextual intelligence company from Colorado, recognized the blind spots that brand safety measures were creating and sought to solve them. Socialcontext created a supervised deep learning process that learns from human-created Diversity, Equity and Inclusion (DEI) topic segments that are built using academic research. The filtered segment insight is then used to capture thousands of real web page examples, each of which are reviewed by a panel of DEI experts for contextual understanding. AI is then customized to understand each segment and appropriately label content. The AI is then rigorously tested against real-world news content that the intelligence has never seen to ensure the algorithm can accurately review and understand the content. 

Below are some general stats about socialcontext's DEI segments:

Illustration of DEI and brand safety socialcontext segments

These contextual segments are regularly reviewed by socialcontext’s academic advisory board to ensure that the machine learning continues to stay accurate over time and align advertising opportunities with socially positive content.

socialcontext x GumGum

Illustration of how GumGum and socialcontext worked together to create DEI segments.

GumGum has partnered with socialcontext to help our clients target DEI-positive news through an integration with our contextual intelligence platform, Verity™. 

Verity™ is innately a brand safety solution through its advanced contextual capabilities, and the partnership with socialcontext further enhances our capabilities. Verity™’s ability to scan text, images, audio and videos to understand the contextual alignment of the content provides brands with the ability to confidently advertise on media that their audiences are interested in while supporting journalism.

Illustration of socialcontext x GumGum's segments that support DEI efforts

Through pairing Verity™ with socialcontext, we’re able to contextually align advertising with positive content surrounding eight key news segments: 

  • Racially diverse news  
  • The LGTBQIA+ community 
  • Gender Equality
  • Renewable Energy
  • Hispanic & Latinx
  • Female Sports
  • Mental Health 
  • Climate Action

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