Q&A: Marcus Pousette on the Importance of Brand Suitability and Brand Safety

“I think one of the biggest mistakes a brand can make is not realizing the scale of the challenge at hand.”

We recently caught up for a conversation with Marcus Pousette,  Managing Director, Southeast Asia at Channel Factory, a YouTube advertising company that delivers brand suitability, brand safety, and advertising targeting on YouTube.

Over the course of our discussion Pousette, who prior to joining Channel Factory earlier this year spent nearly seven years in leadership positions at Pubmatic, talks about the importance of brand suitability and brand safety, the reliability of the major platforms in ensuring it for their advertisers, the company’s expansion plans in the region, and more.


What’s been keeping you busy lately?

There’s been a number of exciting things happening in Channel Factory as well as the industry. We have a new office, and our team in Singapore and the region have been growing steadily. Up until a year ago, our physical presence in the region consisted only of a handful of employees. Fast forward to today, we have over 20 Full-Time members on our team.

 
 

Our plan is to continue investing heavily in the local markets, and to further grow the team in the second half of 2022. On the business side of things, we’ve been extremely busy as there has been, and still is, a growing demand and interest from agencies and brands for brand suitability solutions focusing on driving performance.

What is brand suitability and why does it matter?

Brand suitability is essentially a concept of offering customized alignment with content that is suitable for a brand’s image, customer base, local markets, and business objectives. It’s unique for each and every brand and quite often also unique to each campaign. Maintaining brand relevance and credibility requires constant care and investment. The concept of contextual alignment to amplify brand values and drive strong marketing outcomes is not a novel concept.

However, the reason why brand suitability is crucial in today’s day and age is because of the growing dominance of user-generated content platforms such as YouTube, Tiktok, Snapchat, Facebook, Twitter and the advertising opportunity it presents to brands. With billions of users on these platforms and millions of content creators, brands are constantly faced with the challenge of ensuring that their ads run against content which align with, and amplify, their marketing efforts and avoid running against content which would be deemed as misaligned, low performing or harmful.

 
 

So why does it matter? Well, how can brands guarantee the suitability and performance of the content of which your brand is advertising against? The answer is: with conventional tools and methods you cannot.

At Channel Factory, we have developed proprietary technology and methods to help brands and marketers to solve this problem, and it’s a very exciting space to be in.

Can you talk more about the joint study by Channel Factory and the University of Southern California that showed brand suitable content improves performance?

Channel Factory partnered with the University of Southern California’s Applied Consumer Psychology Department on participant-driven experimental research that examines the impact of contextual ad alignment on consumers.

Some of the key findings from the experimental research revealed that

  • Contextual aligned ads drive a 93% increase in brand awareness vs. contextually misaligned ads
  • Consumers are more likely to consider a brand and share contextually aligned ads vs. misaligned ads
  • Overall, consumers are more likely to be entertained and engaged, as well as believe, trust, consider, recall, share, and intend to purchase a brand’s products more if their advertisements are aligned with the content that is presented to them

Furthermore, the study also revealed how popular content like ASMR and Mukbang eroded the impact of high-performing ads. While these types of content are appropriate for general consumption, consumers also pointed out that it was inappropriate for brands to be advertised against such content.

Channel Factory has offices in Singapore, the Philippines, and Australia. Any plans to expand and what countries do you see as expressing greater interest in ensuring brand safety and suitability?

We are currently looking to expand to various regions for the APAC market. For instance, we currently have open headcounts for Vietnam, and we hope to close out key hires as soon as possible. Indonesia and India are also strong and important markets for us.

We are also considering new ways to expand our business in northern Asia, such as South Korea, Japan, and Hong Kong, in addition to Southeast Asia.

“I think one of the biggest mistakes a brand can make is not realizing the scale of the challenge at hand. In “The Proximity Effect” study that we did with Magna Global, it was revealed that an average of 28% of media investments (which is a very high percentage) are deemed to be running alongside misaligned content.”

What are some of the most common mistakes brands make in terms of adhering to displaying suitable content?

I think one of the biggest mistakes a brand can make is not realizing the scale of the challenge at hand. In “The Proximity Effect” study that we did with Magna Global, it was revealed that an average of 28% of media investments (which is a very high percentage) are deemed to be running alongside misaligned content.

Some examples of misaligned content that was highlighted in our study included Mukbang, Prank or Pimple Popping videos. As previously mentioned, while these types of content are generally popular amongst general audiences for many brands, they significantly reduce the performance and effectiveness in terms of driving Purchase Intent, Brand Respect, Brand Quality and Brand Trust.

“For any advertising-funded business, brand safety is vital, and major platforms are aware of this. However, there is more work to be done.”

Another common mistake brands make is that they underestimate the incredible depth and internationally diverse content library that a platform like YouTube is providing. When advertising in a local market with a set of localized creatives, does it really make sense to run your campaign across 140+ different content languages? Or would you increase performance by focusing on the relevant ones for your target market?

Most marketers would choose the latter if the opportunity was given. That being said, high-performing and brand-suitable content needs to align with brand image, customer base, local markets, and business and campaign objectives.

How reliable are the major platforms such as YouTube, Facebook, TikTok, and others in ensuring that a marketer’s brand suitability and brand safety desires are met?

I believe that they are headed in the right direction. For example, YouTube’s Measurement partner program is an initiative to drive better transparency and control for brands and advertisers.  For any advertising-funded business, brand safety is vital, and major platforms are aware of this. However, there is more work to be done.

According to the latest Media Responsibility Audit carried out by IPG Mediabrands, most platforms do not enforce their policies consistently, and third-party verification is needed as a means of protecting brands from their ads appearing next to harmful content. Another crucial aspect to point out is that brand safety is the base layer. No brand or advertiser should advertise in an environment or context which is not brand safe.

When it comes to brand suitability, there is no one solution that fits all. For example, Lego, Disney, and Hasbro will have very different brand suitability profiles to Coca-Cola, Samsung or Heineken. So while they all can benefit from the industry-wide baseline brand safety initiatives, they will all need strategies and technologies to help them execute effective brand suitable campaigns, tailored to their unique profiles and or requirements.

Last but not least, if a campaign is deemed brand safe, it does not necessarily mean that it is brand suitable.

Lauren Douglass, SVP Global Marketing, Channel Factory said that “audio has never been hotter.” How is it faring in Asia-Pacific by region?

In APAC we’re definitely seeing interest in audio and are actually working with one of the top FMCG brands in the region, albeit in the pilot phase. Overall, there is a growing appetite and demand for brand suitability solutions across various formats and platforms. In time to come, we will definitely witness an increase in the number of audio opportunities as more brands adopt brand suitability strategies.

Bobby McGill

Bobby McGill

Bobby is the founder and publisher of Branding in Asia.

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