The Stack speaks with Mike Zaneis, CEO of the Trustworthy Accountability Group and co-founder of the Brand Safety Institute about why brand protection needs to be a key corporate priority.

What is the urgency for business leaders to educate themselves around brand safety?

Brand safety has become an enterprise risk for most businesses today, yet many companies are not prioritizing brand protection to the degree they should be. In today’s world of real-time social media and instant information, a brand disaster – ranging from ad placement near illegal or offensive content to association with digital criminals – can translate into an immediate loss of sales and long-term damage to customer relationships. 

What are the common pitfalls when approaching brand safety?

One common misconception is that brand risk is only related to ad placement, particularly around unsafe or inappropriate content. The Brand Safety Institute interviewed more than 20 senior executives with leading digital media companies, however, and we discovered that they saw brand safety as a more holistic issue that involved not only ad placement but also broader supply chain issues like ad fraud, ad-related malware, privacy, security, partner reputation, and negative press.

 How will the proposed Brand Safety Officer role answer to the challenge?

Given the complexity of the brand safety challenge and the multiple overlapping issues it encompasses, companies should no longer drift along with the traditional decentralized “we hope we catch it” approach.

A company’s reputation can rise or plunge in an instant with real and immediate business impacts

By appointing a Brand Safety Officer, forward-thinking companies place a single executive at the nexus of their brand safety efforts, so that executives can develop the deep skills and expertise necessary, evaluate their company’s existing systems and policies, and ensure that brand protection receives the necessary focus in key decisions.

How can digital leaders encourage an internal understanding of brand safety practices? And what is the importance of company-wide action on this?

Given the risks associated with failure, every company should visibly prioritize its brand safety efforts across the company. One important step is appointing a Brand Safety Officer, but simply assigning someone a new title is not sufficient.

Each Brand Safety Officer must be given the training, resources, mandate, and executive support necessary to succeed in that position. That kind of visible support starts at the top, and it requires a C-level commitment to elevate brand protection as a key corporate priority. Eventually, larger corporations will want individuals that are knowledgeable about brand safety populated across multiple functional departments, from marketing and sales, to ad operations and legal.

Do you see the importance of brand safety increasing over the coming years as the industry evolves?

It’s not an exaggeration to say that we are rapidly becoming a brand-centric economy, where a company’s reputation can rise or plunge in an instant with real and immediate business impacts. That new world creates tremendous opportunities for brand-focused companies, but it also involves new and rapidly-changing risks that must be addressed by dedicated professionals who are prepared to meet the challenge.