It’s Time for a New Standard of Brand Safety

Smart industries evolve to meet new challenges. It’s time for Brand Safety to meet this test, with new transparent and accountable tools.

By Steven Brill and Gordon Crovitz | Published on May 25, 2023

With misinformation proliferating online—including now with phony generative AI “news” sites becoming a force multiplier—brands and those who serve them need to solve new challenges with a new added layer of protection:

  • Constantly updated review – by trained analysts – of news and information sites that produces apolitical, transparent, accountable reliability ratings.
  • Misinformation Fingerprints – a constantly updated catalog of provably false narratives, written by NewsGuard analysts and formatted to be machine readable – that block ads on misinformation with a precision that blocking words can never achieve.
  • Private marketplaces (PMPs) and Supply Side Platforms (SSPs) offering inventory vetted and updated by journalistically trained analysts.
  • Constant monitoring and new tools to detect the new avalanche of Unreliable AI-Generated News sites (UAINs).

It’s now clear that brand safety protections relating to news sites are most likely to be trusted if they are based on transparent, apolitical criteria, with all parties involved in brand safety—brands, agencies, ad tech companies, and verification companies—increasingly being held accountable for their work. NewsGuard was launched to create this new level of transparent and accountable tools, which is why we have joined the Global Alliance for Responsible Media to aid in their new effort to address misinformation as new category of concern.

Technology-only solutions are effective in keeping ads off pornography sites and some hate-speech sites, but it’s now clear they are ineffective when it comes to the more nuanced problems of misinformation; there’s $2.6 billion a year in unintentional programmatic advertising by thousands of top brands, including on websites promoting hostile disinformation from governments such as Russia and China, healthcare hoaxes, and conspiracy theories. At the same time, legacy brand safety tools block $2.8 billion in spending on credible, trusted news publishers each year through overuse of keyword blocklists.

The legacy solutions that allow this—such as undisclosed ever-growing long lists of blocking words, other technology-only solutions, exclusion or inclusion lists updated every few months or even every year, or solutions that target news sites for exclusion based on their political perspectives—harm both brands and news publishers by denying brands the opportunity to reach consumers with content that produces high levels of engagement in exactly the right environment and to support quality journalism.

These first-generation tools are growing still more ineffective as malign actors use generative AI to evade them.

But there’s now a better way to deal with misinformation: A way that makes brand spending more efficient by opening up more certifiably safe inventory, at lower CPMs, that produces higher engagement and response:

NewsGuard’s New Generation of Brand Safety.

Exclusive, Constantly Updated Inclusion Lists:

Brands and agencies can use NewsGuard to expand news “allow” lists with highly rated sites, enabling clients to invest proactively in quality journalism as part of their corporate social responsibility strategies. These Inclusion Lists include three tiers of safety for brands to choose among.

Ad tech platforms and exchanges use NewsGuard to help clients to select the types of quality news content they especially want to advertise on, including:

  • Sites serving Black, Hispanic, Asian, and LGBTQ+ communities
  • Sites serving local communities

Exclusive, Constantly Updated Exclusion Lists:

Brands and agencies also use NewsGuard to enhance domain exclusion lists with sites that receive low trust ratings from NewsGuard—including the growing lists of sites using generative AI with no human editing—to safeguard clients from the reputational risks of inadvertently funding hoax websites with advertising. These Exclusion Lists include three tiers of safety for brands to choose among.

More than 4,000 brands advertised on COVID-19 misinformation sites during the pandemic, and 64 percent of Russia-Ukraine disinformation websites are funded by programmatic ads.

These are problems that can be solved with NewsGuard.

NewsGuard’s New Generation of Brand Safety makes brand spending more efficient by opening up more certifiably safe inventory, at lower CPMs, that produces higher engagement and response.

An Alternative to Blocking Words:

NewsGuard provides an alternative to legacy brand safety solutions such as keyword blocking, which disproportionately harms news sites and—as the 4,000 brands advertising on COVID-19 misinformation sites illustrates—do not provide adequate protection because they fail to exclude supporting websites at the domain level.

Moreover, the generative AI sites are clearly poised to outsmart anyone’s list of blocking words.

Beyond Programmatic Advertising: Protecting Brand Safety Across all Media:

Legacy brand safety tools are narrow solutions, just seeking to protect brands in terms of programmatic advertising. NewsGuard now goes beyond programmatic solutions also to provide ratings for planning and for television news programs and networks, OTT and CTV news and podcasts. NewsGuard protects brands holistically, across multiple media, from supporting misinformation, while also allowing brands confidently to support trusted sources of news.

The New Standard: New Solutions for a New Generation of Challenges

With NewsGuard, advertisers can continue to place ads on trusted news sites while avoiding misinformation.

NewsGuard’s constantly updated data ensures clients can access an ever-expanding, transparent and accountable dataset of source-level evaluations of news sites.

To learn more about NewsGuard’s brand safety tools, contact