IAS Media Quality Report: brand risk improvements indicate return of confidence post-pandemic

Media quality company, Integral Ad Science (IAS) has released its Media Quality Report for H1 2021 which 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.

The report, based on trillions of data events analysed each month worldwide, provides transparency into the performance and quality of UK digital media and advertising placements in the first half of 2021, alongside worldwide comparisons.

Brand risk improvements fueled 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 4.1 percentage points from 5.7% in H1 2020 to 1.6% in H1 2021 – compared to the global average of 3.6%.

Meanwhile, brand risk on mobile web video also decreased 4.1 percentage points from 6.3% in H1 2020 to 2.2% in H1 2021, versus the global average of 3.6%. 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% in H1 2021, and desktop video programmatic risk decreasing by 3.9 percentage points to 1.4%.

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 YoY improvement in the proportion of alcohol-related impressions flagged across all inventory types. In particular, desktop video decreased 27 percentage points from 45.3% in H1 2020 to 18.3% in H1 2021, while desktop display fell by 26.4 percentage points from 45.4% to 19%.

– 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 5.7 percentage points from 11.1% in H1 2020 to 5.4% in H1 2021.

– Adult, hate speech and violent 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% in H1 2020 to 18.2% in H1 2021. Hate speech across desktop video increased 13.4 percentage points from 2% to 15.4% in H1 2021. And violence also presented a brand safety threat, with 36.1% of mobile web video ad impressions flagged as posing a risk including content around violence.

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.

Nick Morley, Managing Director, EMEA, Integral Ad Science