Why is Brand Safety A Hot Topic in Podcast Advertising?

What is brand safety advertising, and why should advertisers care?


Canceled. We’ve all heard the term before.


Old tweets with harmful language from an influencer you follow on Instagram have resurfaced, and now they’re losing followers and brand deals.


A brand sent out an email with an unfortunate choice of words referencing a deceased designer, and now hundreds of people are vowing never to show there again.


Brands and influencers can quickly find themselves in some hot water if they do something that violates consumers’ perception of them. This perception is also known as the brand’s image, and it’s an advertiser’s job to understand how to market their brand without hurting their image. If they don’t, it can be detrimental to the success and longevity of the brand.


True Native Media founder Heather Osgood recently sat down with Barometer Co-Founder Tamara Nelson to discuss how vital brand safety is to podcast advertising and share tips to ensure your brand is successful.

What is brand safety, and why does it matter?

Brand safety refers to keeping a brand’s public image and reputation safe when advertising online. Brands advertising on social media walk a fine line between creating engaging and relevant content while not saying anything that may be interpreted wrong and hurt the brand’s image.

Operating with brand safety as a top priority is essential when deciding on your next podcast campaign because, as Tamara Nelson said, “whatever content you advertise on is what your brand becomes associated with.”

When a brand advertises on a podcast, the audience will naturally associate the brand with the podcast and its host. Suppose your brand has a strong perspective or position. In that case, advertising on a show with a strong opinion opposing yours might not be the best thing for brand safety because it will contrast with your audience’s perception of your brand.


Similarly, you must ensure the podcast you choose has a brand and host you trust. For example, a podcast host with a reputation for scandals or controversy wouldn’t be someone you want to associate with your brand.

Is it always bad to advertise on a show with opposing views?

Not necessarily.


“I’ve had agencies tell me, oh gosh, you know, this conservative talk works super well for us even though maybe the brand doesn’t necessarily align with those conservative viewpoints; it converts super well because of this level of engagement.” (Heather Osgood)


This begs the question if advertising on content that doesn’t 100% align with the brand is creating conversion, is it harming the brand?


One of the first rules of advertising is understanding your audience. For example, you wouldn’t advertise a vegan snack subscription box on a podcast where two men talk about roughing it in the woods. The ad will not do well because the people listening to that podcast are probably not vegans in need of new snacks.


On the other hand, advertising on a show with opposing views to your own would open your brand up to a broader audience that may have never heard of it before. For example, a brand focused on growth might not be as picky as a more established brand regarding which shows to advertise with.

Smaller brands don’t face the same pressure more prominent brands do because they don’t have an established brand image yet.

On the other hand, a well-known brand’s consumer base already has expectations and associations. Therefore, advertising on a show that goes against the brand’s established values could violate consumers’ expectations, causing them to lose trust and support.


Ultimately If your brand is still small, it might be beneficial to diversify your advertising before you get pigeonholed into one side.


“I think that’s an opportunity where podcasts shine because there are quite a few podcasters who don’t neatly fall into one bucket or the other, and that level of nuance on an issue by issue basis, I think, elevates the conversation a lot and makes it easier for brands to work with these folks who maybe they disagree with them on one issue or another.” (Tamara Nelson)

I’m an advertiser from a smaller company; how do I begin to think about brand safety?

A great place to start is GARM.


GARM stands for the Global Alliance for Responsible Media and is an offshoot of the World Federation of Advertisers. GARM was created to address the evolving challenges of harmful content on digital media platforms being monetized through ads, and they’ve created the concept of the brand safety floor.


The brand safety floor acts as a baseline, and anything under this floor should not be monetized. An example of something below the brand safety floor is first-person terrorism videos on YouTube, which were being unknowingly monetized before GARM.


Since podcast advertising is still a newer concept, GARM has not released an official framework or set of definitions for podcasts. Still, they have recently made a new subgroup to work specifically in the podcast space to help advertisers. Until GARM releases a brand suitability framework specific to podcasts, Tamara recommends the CTV brand suitability framework.


GARM is a great spot for newer advertisers to start the conversation about brand safety because it will force you to think about what your position as a brand is on each level. Your brand might not care about adult content or profanity but is strongly against hate speech.

Brand safety isn’t a one size fits all, so it’s important to take a nuanced approach to building your brand’s profile for what you tolerate and what you don’t.

I’m not expected to review every piece of content a creator has made before advertising on their show, right?

It would be impossible for an advertiser to sit through hours and hours of content to make sure nothing a podcast has put out goes against your brand tolerance, which is why Tamara created Barometer.

Barometer was created to be scalable and consistent and process any influencer content with specific attention to brand suitability. It can help you decide which podcast is the best match for your brand to advertise with.


“Scalable as referring to the exponentially growing number of podcast hours that one would have to listen to, but also consistent because every human is biased. To be biased is to be human.” (Tamara Nelson)


While Barometer was created to account for human bias, humans are still an essential puzzle piece. Barometer provides you with the data, but ultimately it’s up to you as the brand to reflect on that data and make the next decision.

The Podcast & The Influencer

“There’s a reason that we love influencer marketing, and we want to do more of it, but there’s a whole wild card side of it where you’re asking, ‘who am I aligning with?” (Heather Osgood)

Arguably the most important thing to remember when deciding on the next podcast to advertise on is that the host probably has a following of their own. Your brand will not only be associated with the podcast but also with the host’s individual brand as an influencer.


Make sure you’re doing your due diligence on both the podcast and the host before deciding to partner with them to make sure it’s the right partnership for your brand.


Brand safety can seem like an overwhelming conversation because it’s impossible to predict how every single person will react to each ad you create, but that doesn’t mean it isn’t an essential conversation to be having.


Clearly defining your brand’s values and thoroughly vetting potential podcasts to make sure values align is the best step to ensuring brand sustainability.

If you are a marketer and are interested in learning more about how podcast advertising works, download our Marketers Guide To Podcast Advertising below. 

Marketers Guide To Podcast Advertising

You can also reach us at truenativemedia.com.

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