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MRC Takes on Brand Safety With Draft of Proposed Guidelines

Advertisers have been worrying about brand safety for their online video ads for over a year now, but proposed guidelines by the Media Rating Council (MRC) could create formal rules to help them out.

MRC brand safetyThe MRC’s “Supplement to IAB Guidelines for the Conduct of Ad Verification,” proposes to modernize guidelines by considering when ads are placed alongside user-generated content (UGC). The Supplement also creates rules for mobile environments. Advertisers will welcome that it creates and defines the concept of “adjacency,” recognizing that brands can be harmed when ads are placed alongside objectionable content.

While brand safety has traditionally been judged by the online property—with advertisers able to block placement based on categories—today’s social platforms and scrolling feeds require ad platforms to consider adjacency—that is, how close ads are to troubling material. The MRC encourages platforms to create some kind of meaningful measurement system, then measure and report placements.

“Placements that are zero measurement units from specific content being measured or that are able to be simultaneously viewable (50 percent of pixels on screen consistent with MRC Viewability Guidelines) with specific content being measured should be considered directly adjacent,” the MRC suggests.

For video content and video ads, adjacency should be measured by the number of video units that play before and after the content being tracked, including for autoplay videos. A video’s thumbnail image should also be considered when looking at adjacency, as the image can be misleading.

Once ad platforms have calculations for adjacency in place, advertisers can create specifications for their ads to ensure a safe proximity.

The MRC guidelines are now open for a 30-day public comment period. Comments are due by August 9th. The organization will then review comments and create a proposed final version for review by the appropriate working group. Look for that final version to come out by the end of the third quarter.


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