What Is Brand Suitability?

Going beyond brand safety.

Brand safety is the baseline that every advertiser and publisher expects. Having ads displayed on completely inappropriate sites can be disastrous for brand recognition – even a great product can have the wind taken out of its sails if it’s caught being advertised on a site that peddles conspiracy theories.


Stopping after securing brand safety, though, is a misstep many marketers make, and running the extra mile and securing brand suitability can make all the difference.


It’s especially important to secure brand safety and suitability in today’s political and economic climate – in a recent study, Brand Keys found that 38% of consumer brand categories such as retail and dining, among others, are experiencing declines in consumer loyalty. Gaining and securing customers with brand safety and suitability has never been more relevant.


But what is brand suitability and how is it secured?


Read on to find out what fundamentally separates brand suitability from brand safety, why it’s imperative to secure it, and our tips for doing that.



Put simply, brand safety avoids negative brand connotations while brand suitability cultivates positive connotations.


Brand safety is something taken very seriously by advertisers, as evidenced by their recent exodus from the twitter platform following Elon Musk’s takeover and subsequent gutting of content moderation teams. Major brands such as General Motors, Volkswagen, Pfizer and General Mills have paused advertising on the platform.


Social media platforms have notoriously struggled with brand safety for years – speak to any YouTube creator who’s been active for more than a few years, and they’ll probably have strong words about the infamous adpocalypse, a catastrophe for creators and an attempt to present a more brand-safe environment to advertisers.


The fear advertisers have is that ads will be shown alongside controversial, dangerous, illegal, or otherwise inappropriate content. Although a brand merely appearing alongside that content arguably doesn’t amount to anything in the way of endorsement, even subconscious association can cause significant damage to brand perception.


Brand safety is achieved through exclusion. Keywords, content, and entire sites are blocked.


On the flip side, brand suitability is about using clever inclusion to show ads around the best or most relevant content in relation to that ad. Subconscious and conscious associations can be positively leveraged for great user responses.


That means putting ads not simply in appropriate contexts, but in the best contexts. Where brand safety aims to not repel users, brand suitability strives for high relevance in order to attract users.



One of the biggest challenges to securing brand suitability is using basic tech to accomplish something that’s more sophisticated. Using regular contextual targeting, for example, takes steps to brand suitability but can often miss the mark. Keywords aligning might make sense on the surface – but then again, an ad for tasty recipes can look bad when displayed on a page about food poisoning.


A lack of understanding what brand suitability entails, how important it is, and how to achieve it provides a further challenge. Reading up on the topic like you’re doing right now is a great step!


Some brands also suffer with a narrow vision when hoping to achieve brand suitability in terms of the platforms they use. By concentrating efforts on only a handful of platforms or solely on social media campaigns, opportunities for better tech and better engagement can be easily missed.



Putting ads in their best context requires more than basic contextual targeting. Semantic targeting technology, such as SemanticHero, uses artificial intelligence to analyze all of the content on any one page and determine its precise semantics. That means ads can be placed where they are most relevant and helpful, creating positive associations.


Brand suitability shouldn’t be treated with as black or white of a lens as brand safety is. When analyzing brand safety, ad placements are either safe or they aren’t – but there are degrees to suitability, and clever tweaks to ad placement or the ads being placed can be massively effective.


It’s also important to expand your vision beyond platforms such as TikTok and YouTube. Connected TV (CTV) is a medium that offers promising opportunities for brand suitability, with capabilities that extend beyond what is offered by social media platforms, including higher user attention and engagement times. The numbers speak for themselves:


  • The average attention rate for CTV is 82%, as opposed to 42% for social video
  • Viewers have an average attention length of 12.2 seconds for CTV
  • 71% of the average viewer’s time is spent in the “engagement zone” for CTV ad breaks


Those statistics are just a few of many taken from our in-depth scientific study with COG Research – get the full study for free below.