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How Can Publishers REALLY Keep Brands Safe?

The following is authored by Field Garthwaite, CEO & Co-Founder of IRIS.TV

IRIS.TV is in the business of helping media companies and broadcasters win audiences back from Facebook and YouTube. By helping all creators of digital TV and video content, including consumer brands, grow viewership and engagement for their content by applying machine learning to build personalized viewing experiences for each of their viewers.

Those viewers have long been tethered to those large content ecosystems. But relying on Facebook and Google also leaves a lot of money and customer insights on the table for publishers and brands. It could also leave control — and brandy safety — to chance.

On third-party platforms, such as Facebook and Google, there are no guarantees that video content won’t be shown next to hate speech, racism, antisemitism, violence, sexism, homophobia or other offensive materials. Can moderators prevent inappropriate video content from appearing on a social media site? Even if they succeed, what’s the mental cost of doing so?

Setting standards for who gets to monetize video through social is another potential solution. But how do you balance the need for vetting with creating a means for creators to share their own content? Established publishers can quickly pass the red tape and partner with video advertisers. But what about newcomers? And what about harmful actors with followings that allow them to appear as legitimate publishers?

Current standards for sharing social content provide brand safety concerns around every turn. It’s in social networks’ best interest not to tamp down the volume of content, because that reduces the appeal for advertisers, and creates a higher volume of transactions.

When discussing the business quandaries these social networks and other technology companies found themselves in around Charlottesville, Financial Times’ Brooke Masters noted:

“Casting themselves as conduits rather than content providers, Facebook, Google and the gang have argued that intensive monitoring would not only be prohibitively expensive, but also run the risk of curtailing freedom of expression.”

However, embracing quantity of ads over quality of the interaction is not how brands build a lasting experience or encourage repeat customers. It’s also not how to create a brand-safe ad platform, especially given the rise in offensive materials being shared.

Rather than slapping any ad anywhere, there’s real value for brands to deliver targeted, premium experiences to customers; ones that can build loyal, dedicated audiences with repeat viewing. With the right tools, publishers can manufacture these premium experiences, while also prioritizing brand safety at the same time.

A newsroom creating breaking video content cannot always guarantee what the ads are being sold against. Brands can assume it’s an entertainment segment, but a pressing news item can turn that block into coverage of any number of less brand-friendly topics. You can’t tell the ad buyer where those views are going — unless, of course, technology’s employed to keep audiences away from harmful content.

IRIS.TV provides programming controls to blacklist certain types of content from appearing alongside monetizable editorial and branded content. Publishers posting breaking news videos online can guarantee certain (or all) unsafe or un-monetizable content won’t appear during these segments. These publishers can also lock certain content categories to only appear together. So you won’t see breaking news on a robbery followed by a branded lifestyle segment.

The only way to certify brand safety is working with content providers, publishers and broadcasters that make that extra step a priority. These media companies are dedicated partners to brands, ensuring what can appear and where. In the process of creating engaging and brand-safe video interactions, they’re also taking back important audience information and ad dollars.

In any other industry, you wouldn’t create a product, then hand it to someone else to sell and benefit from, free-of-charge like we’ve seen on YouTube and Facebook. The same goes for today’s media environment as well. Every bit of audience optimization counts for both brands and publishers.

If marketers prioritize brand safety and put their money where their mouth is, then Google and Facebook become less powerful in the debate around free speech and less hegemonic in digital publishing. Today, a large majority of premium branded content is distributed on Google and Facebook. But the rise of newer technologies like IRIS.TV, that doesn’t have to be the case. IRIS.TV’s Campaign Manager allows major brands to reach hundreds of millions of viewers on top tier publishers with a guarantee of brand safety.

As Masters correctly points out for FT, the buck stops with brand marketers and agencies — not Google or Facebook — on what constitutes free speech around branded content. If those giants can’t prioritize a safe environment for content engagement, there are alternatives that will (and already do today).


IRIS.TV is a cloud-based personalized video programming system that allows publishers and content owners to generate more video views and engage users across all devices. The company’s product suite is designed to increase video consumption and simplify operations for web, mobile, and OTT video distribution. The software integrates with existing video players using artificial intelligence and adaptive machine learning to automate streaming of personalized content based on audience preferences, user interaction, and behavioral segmentation. IRIS.TV has hundreds of customers across the world that rely on the company’s video programming platform to keep their audiences watching.

Based in Los Angeles, IRIS TV’s investors include Sierra Wasatch, BDMI, Progress Ventures and individual backers including Machinima founder Allen DeBevoise, Lions Gate CFO James Barge as well as senior executives with Nielsen and AEG.