- Twitter is kicking off a process to get its brand safety controls and measurement metrics independently audited by the Media Rating Council.
- The company is also set to announce partnerships with third-party brand safety software firms and conducting research into how consumers view ads when they appear next to unsavory content.
- After the Facebook ad boycott in July, advertisers continue to push tech platforms for more controls to help steer their ads away from harmful content.
- Visit Business Insider's homepage for more stories.
Twitter is making a series of moves in the area of brand safety, the area frustrates advertisers the most about social platforms.
The company is following in the footsteps of YouTube and Facebook by committing to audits by the Media Rating Council to assess its brand safety controls and measurement metrics. An MRC accreditation is seen as a key industry stamp of approval that indicates a platform or publishers' internal systems are working effectively and without bias. Twitter said it also plans to announce a number of new third-party brand safety partnerships in the coming weeks.
Like other social platforms, Twitter has to balance letting users freely publish content with the needs of advertisers who don't want their ads to appear near trolling, misinformation, pornographic or otherwise harmful material.
"We want every brand to feel confident advertising on Twitter," said Sarah Personette, Twitter VP of global client solutions, in an interview. "Brand safety is a critical component to that."
Tackling brand safety is time-consuming for social media companies, considering each individual's news feed looks different to one another's. Platforms also make most of their revenue from news feeds, and advertisers continue to press tech platforms for more brand safety controls.
"Adjacency on social has always been of concern to our clients. It is unfair that social platforms get a free pass on adjacency, but news and other publishers do not," said Joshua Lowcock, chief digital and global brand safety officer at media buying agency UM. "We need to resolve whether adjacency is an issue and then treat all platforms and publishers equally."
Twitter is also researching brand safety
Twitter said its MRC audits would cover brand safety; audience measurement; sophisticated invalid traffic filtration; and industry-standard impression measurement, including viewable impressions. The brand safety assessment is unlikely to focus on adjacency in the news feed, however, and instead on "monetizable placements," such as publisher videos that contain ads, Personette said.
David Gunzerath, SVP and associate director at the MRC, said while Twitter has indicated it plans to enter into its accreditation process, nothing has been formalized.
MRC audits are carried out by the accounting firm EY. The cost for each audit can range from the hundreds of thousands of dollars to north of a million, depending on the size of the audit and usually take several months to complete.
Twitter — alongside Facebook and YouTube — in September agreed to steps as part of their membership of the Global Reliance for Responsible Media (GARM) that also includes advertisers like Procter & Gamble and Unilever. The steps included having their brand safety controls audited.
The platforms also said they will work together to develop a more standardized way to measure and report harmful content. As part of the initiative, platforms also agreed to develop or partner with other companies to work on offering "advertising adjacency solutions" by "year-end" — if they were not in place already.
Personette said Twitter is looking at its adjacency controls and doing research into how often ads appear next to unsavory content and how that positioning changes consumers' perception of the brand. The company plans to share the research with the industry in early 2021.
But advertisers give Twitter mixed reviews
Twitter has made other efforts to get ahead on brand safety, banning political ads in 2019, flagging tweets from public officials — including President Trump — for misleading election claims, and prompting users to read an article before retweeting it.
"Twitter is showing some real and much-needed leadership," said UM's Lowcock. "There is definitely a divergence in Twitter's approaches versus the other players in the market, which is welcome, because we need platforms to make bold decisions in the best interests of their users, society and advertisers."
Still, despite these recent efforts, one executive at a media buying firm remarked, "There is still a significant amount of harmful content that appears on Twitter."
Amid the Facebook advertiser boycott in July — a protest over how the platform handles hate speech and misinformation — brands including Unilever, Coca-Cola and Mars said they would also pause spending on other platforms including Twitter. Mars and Coca-Cola have since returned to Twitter, but Unilever said it would largely sit out from social media advertising in the U.S. until the end of the year.
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