Article: 5-min Read

Managing brand positivity is a team sport. Organize your team for scale and reach.

Rachna Sharma

Director, Media at Roundel

Providing brand-safe environments has become a crucial element of the publisher-client relationship.

Providing brand-safe environments for brands to advertise is no longer an “additional feature” but a commitment from publishers to their clients. Brands want to see their ads next to highly visible content appropriate to the brand’s target audience, which drives results.

The main challenge of brand positivity today is ensuring brands are showing up in premium, high-quality, contextually appropriate environments that engage the audience. The trick is to strike the right balance, which requires a team effort. In a survey about brand safety, consumers felt that responsibility for brand safety is broadly shared across the ad tech ecosystem. They distributed responsibility as follows:1

  • Advertiser—66%
  • Ad agency—59%
  • Technology provider—59%
  • Website owner—42%

To improve a brand’s positivity profile in a significant way, all players must break down their silos and strike a balance of scale, reach, and contextually relevant environments. Together.

The key stakeholders involved in managing brand positivity

1. Publishers

The publisher’s role revolves around creating and distributing top-notch content relevant to advertisers’ brands. The goal is to connect advertisers with content and audiences relevant to their brand via native ad placements. Consumers look at native ads 53% more frequently than display ads,2 so publishers must determine if the ad content will resonate with the audience.

“We often look through the lens of what is brand appropriate. What is appropriate for one brand may not be appropriate for others with the consumers they are trying to reach,” says Rachel Parkin, EVP Sales at CafeMedia.

While previous approaches to brand safety focused too broadly on where they didn’t want ads to appear, publishers today can leverage contextual targeting to look for opportunities where the brand message could thrive. In this approach, publishers scan for new and relevant opportunities for brands, always asking, “Where can this brand show up to get the best results?”

For example, a New York City-based baby food brand may want its ad to appear on The publisher can then help target the ads to the right audience by showing those ads on articles in the “Baby,” “Toddler,” and “Food” subcategories instead of the “Baby Names” and “Pregnancy” columns. Publishers could even identify the best place within a specific article for the ad to appear.

2. Ad Tech Partners

Ad tech partners can also leverage contextual targeting to support publishers by helping them find opportunities for brands to connect with their audience. Machine learning and artificial intelligence (AI) can leverage data and insights to identify trending content and consumer engagement appropriate to brands. In doing so, ad tech partners can help brands reach relevant audiences at the moment and drive engagement in today’s fast and always-on digital world.

“With the rapidly approaching demise of third-party cookies, brands need new scalable solutions that enable privacy-friendly and brand-safe audience engagement. Sophisticated contextual targeting tools empower advertisers to thrive in the new programmatic landscape and ensure they don’t miss a beat and enable publishers to envelop their advertising partners in high quality, suitable environments,” says Kathryn Roganti, VP, Commercial at Comscore.

3. Media Agencies

Working closely with the ad tech partners are media agencies. Their role in promoting brand positivity is to ensure they are buying high-quality ad placements and holding partners accountable for delivering premium, brand-safe supply.

To ensure the supply matches the ads’ quality and context, media agencies should conduct audits, leverage insights from the ad tech partner data, and provide reports to advertisers about what is and is not working.

4. Advertisers

Advertisers define the brand’s risk profile for brand safety, identifying their needs and the environments in which they want to appear. But this step works only if advertisers clearly communicate their goals and risk tolerance to the publishers, media agencies, and ad tech partners who can help them show up accordingly.

Advertisers also must push publishers, ad tech partners, and media agencies to span the breadth of channels available to ensure the most significant reach. Ad technology can identify relevant content beyond the written word, enabling brands to expand contextual advertising into audio, video, images, and other engaging content types.

Now that we’ve defined the roles of each brand-positivity stakeholder, let’s turn to how they can work together to place brands where they need to reach their audiences.

Two collaborative steps move the needle on brand positivity

1. Plan annual reviews with all key players.

Ensure everyone is aligned with the brand’s view on brand positivity and allow each stakeholder to optimize their plans based on those annual findings.

2. Automate contextual targeting.

Media buyers and advertisers can better control the frequency at which audiences see their ads.

Pave a new, better path toward brand safety.

I know what you’re thinking: This is still a lot of hard work. We’ve been there.

Target Corporation takes brand positivity seriously—so seriously that the company created its own premium marketplace to deliver media to the best places that consumers choose to browse: 1,000-plus sites across Comscore’s measured top publishers. It’s called Bullseye Marketplace, and Target uses it for all its media inventory. Now, you can, too.

Today, this premium marketplace is available to you via Roundel™, Target’s media company, so you can ensure your ads only run where Target is willing to run its own advertising. Together, we can make sure your media lives where context and content are both brand-safe, at scale, and anchored in performance and guest centricity.

We choose to do what’s best for you, your customers, and, well, everyone.

Rachna Sharma

Director, Media at Roundel

Rachna Sharma joined Target in 2019. As Director, Media at Roundel, she leads several functions focused on delivering operational excellence, media strategies and performance, and strategic insights to our advertisers.

During her tenure, she has led large teams across media planning, ad operations, media optimization, performance and insights, and product management. She continuously contributes toward making Roundel a preferred media and performance partner for brands.

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1Brand Safety Institute, “TAG/BSI Survey Finds Consumers Savvy About Brand Safety Issues,” December 15, 2020, (accessed March 12, 2021).
2Sharethrough, “Native Ads Vs Banner Ads: Native Ad Research From IPG & Sharethrough Reveals That In-Feed Beats Banners,” (accessed February 16, 2021).