Nearly $1 Billion of Global Programmatic Budget Spend on Unsafe Content

Study by 4D and Factmata reveals 5% of programmatic spend still ends up in unsuitable brand environments.

While brand safety and suitability have fast become the number one focus for brands advertising in today’s politically and economically volatile environment, a recent study by 4D and Factmata found close to $1 billion USD of global programmatic spend is still being spent in unsafe environments.

4D Contextual Outcomes Engine, and Factmata, a London-based AI company, teamed up to run a series of A/B tests to compare the effectiveness of traditional brand safety solutions and whether they are able to identify or block complex suitability signals.

The testing found that unsuitable content missed by existing brand safety vendors, equates to 0.71% of total spend. With global programmatic spend in 2020 reaching US$126.5 billion, this equals $898 million wasted on content considered unsuitable or unsafe for brands. Specifically, 0.42% of this spend is on URLs containing high levels of hate speech, and 0.1% is on URLs containing high levels of propaganda.

The report also indicates that Factmata consistently blocks 4% to 5% of an average advertising budget, or $6.3 billion worth of spend that is otherwise unknowingly being spent on hate speech, propaganda, sexism, and racist content.

Marco Godina, SVP Product, 4D – a division of Silverbullet, says the vast majority of traditional brand safety solutions were built at the dawn of programmatic advertising, and many have not kept up to speed with the nuances in how harmful online content is framed, worded, and produced.

“As we step into the new marketing age, where third-party cookies fade away, and contextual intelligence will surge, brands can look to adopt a variety of tools to safeguard them against future threats,” he says.

“Together, 4D and Facmata’s effective contextual targeting and brand suitability engines can give brands holistic 360 degree guidance about a page’s true meaning. This partnership allows marketers to have greater confidence in where their ads are placed, in order to protect their identity and ethos.”

Dhruv Ghulati, CEO of Factmata, says dated algorithms rely on keywords, which alone do not protect a brand entirely. And, with restrictions of the walled gardens making it even more difficult to manage brand safety, businesses are searching for new solutions.

“Brands looking for safe environments need to move far beyond the scope of traditional brand safety and targeting methods. It’s no easy feat. Leading brand safety tools are playing a fantastic role in the effort to protect brands, but cannot do it alone. Brands need to explore additional layers of protection to gain 100% confidence in where their ads are being placed.”

Ultimately, 4D and Factmata recommend brands take a blended approach to improve brand safety and suitability.

Recommendations include:

One size does not fit all. Brands looking for safe and suitable solutions will want to align themselves with advanced solutions beyond traditional methods that move far beyond the scope of traditional brand safety methods.

Unsuitable content, unsuitable spend. Unsuitable content flagged by Factmata (but not traditional brand safety solutions) is estimated to be £19.6 million (US$26.8 million) of UK programmatic spend, meaning 5% of budget is landing on unsafe or unsuitable environments. This investment could be utilised elsewhere.

Nuance is key. Modern marketers who want to thrive in the new marketing age need to be aware of nuance and true context to identify the right moment and the right environment in order to align with the right message.

Read the full research paper here.

About the research
4D’s Media Activation team ran a series of A/B tests to compare the effectiveness of traditional brand safety solutions at identifying and blocking complex suitability signals. A test campaign was set up on The Trade Desk, with a significant spend budgeted for two line items: brand safety applied and brand safety not applied. Ad units in both line items contained a privacy compliant JavaScript tag that allowed for the full path URL of all impressions to be collected and scored by Factmata. All other targeting, bidding and media variables were identical. The campaigns ran for three full days in order to gather enough impression-level data to ensure the results were statistically significant.

About Factmata
Factmata is a contextual artificial intelligence company that builds technology to understand the nuances of online content, far beyond sentiment analysis. It has built natural language processing algorithms to detect multiple categories of content within articles and short form comments or posts, including propagandist tone, sexist language, hate speech and more. It provides solutions for brands to avoid online risks and reputation damage, advertisers to perform effective, safe ad placements, and many more. Founded in 2017 out of the UCL Machine Reading Lab, Factmata’s team consists of PhDs and data scientists across the globe, and is backed by Mark Cuban Companies, Biz Stone (co-founder, Twitter), Craig Newmark (founder, Craigslist) and Mark Pincus (founder, Zynga).

About 4D
4D is the leading contextual outcomes engine that enables clients to step into the post-cookie, first-party data future with confidence. We bring together the most advanced machine learning and AI technologies to help you reach your customers at the right place, right time, and in the right moment. 4D is a subdivision of Silverbullet.

About Silverbullet
Silverbullet is the leading marketing transformation company that helps the world’s biggest brands to improve business outcomes. We reduce the friction across digital marketing, empowering better, faster and smarter marketing decisions. Founded in 2016, the company is headquartered in London, with a team of consultants, product experts, data scientists, and marketing engineers in Milan, Munich, Melbourne and New York.