People, Brand Safety, Digital Safety an Outlook for 2024

People, Brand Safety, Digital Safety an Outlook for 2024

by Rob Rasko, CEO, The 614 Group


If you ignore people’s needs regarding the conversation around trust in the media, your digital businesses and marketing activations will suffer the consequences. 2024 is a year that will dictate the future. From global elections to the usage of AI, 2024 will shape who we are and how we live and work for generations to come. However, according to the Edelman Trust Barometer approximately 60% of Business, Government and Journalists are NOT trusted to tell us the truth.1 In an industry that has media and journalism as a backbone how can we gain back the trust of the people?

While the world might be divided on trust, our industry is as well. 2024 will be an amazing time to connect brands to loyal and new customers but how we do it will be under intense scrutiny and our tone will matter. In order to get the goals and tone correct, we need to have accurate definitions to guide the conversation. While the marketplace frequently puts forth complex definitions I propose a simpler concept for 2024. Brand Safety is the responsibility of companies who derive revenue from advertising on the internet to people and other businesses. Digital Safety, on the other hand, encompasses what consumers and “nonprofessional” internet users care about when they are online: proactively ensuring the safety of kids and families, safeguarding personal data, ensuring exposure to only safe and appropriate content, being inclusive regarding all races, genders, ages, etc and bolstering cyber security to prevent malware attacks. 

The outcome of getting digital safety right, means people will spend more time and money online, derisking the medium and building trust. By getting Brand Safety right, advertisers will spend, brands will thrive and we can achieve key goals, building businesses, and influencing people all while protecting their customers. By getting both wrong, we risk losing the audience, the very people we want to connect with. They will stop using the apps and sites we’ve come to know and they will opt to cease participating.

A real example of a separated industry on the brand and digital safety definitions occurred when Elon Musk told advertisers so boldly to “GFY” back in November. In this example, I believe his statement says Brand Safety is just not his priority, he will not be dictated to by big advertisers wishes, an interesting point in itself. Is he saying only SMBs matter on X or is he just being defiant... However, on the contrary, In his own way, I think he does value Digital Safety.2 Agree with him or not, Elon embraces his view on DS by prioritizing his users and not big advertisers and letting the advertiser’s chips and opinions fall where they may.

In December of 2023, the second installment of the ANA report3 was released and while the title refers to programmatic media, it states in the paper that it covers just the open web and not walled gardens. However, the report does make broad statements about the digital supply chain in general. A message from the ANA implies a message from the advertisers to their agencies 

and the broader marketplace,  the technology business and the media owners. The message is “you are wasting some of our money.”  In reading the report closely I didn't see anything about digital safety as I defined above. The focus on media budget waste and no mention of user experience is a big miss when making such a big statement about the safety of digital.

I’d bet money Elon never read the ANA report.  Maybe he never heard of the organization. Elon is the richest and one of the world's most powerful individuals running a media property sans knowledge of the industry or nuance to navigate it to keep people safe in real time. But as usual, Elon being Elon has set the table for a battle in 2024 between folks who wish to dictate Brand Safety and the little guy’s need for Digital Safety as he, the regular guy, sees it. 

2024 will be a year when AI and Mis/Disinformation will be in focus, in a year when the United States will elect a president–an outcome having global ramifications. The world's biggest media brands–Google, Apple, Meta, TikTok, X and others–have no choice, as consumer-facing products, but to care about digital safety or lose trust or worse, their audiences. As platforms are also places for major brands to find new clients, influence sales of products and service, goods of all types, and political discourse and election choices, I submit they must care all about Brand Safety too, and some platforms have been quite vocal on the topic. 

There is some hope for business and trust coming out of this report, businesses are the most trusted in the categories of business, NGO, government and media.4 So we do have the opportunity to be leaders in change. The conversations that people are having about our industry everyday are real and affect families as well as practitioners. It's not hard to see why the stakes are so high. To me, it all starts with understanding how to have this conversation and then using our voices to have it, between the biggest businesses with the consumer in mind. My hope is as one year closes and another opens is that we all realize we need each other, that the good work on Brand Safety and Digital Safety which happens behind the scenes becomes public, and the good efforts come across in the messaging, the level of rhetoric emboldens all sides to work harder together to get what the world, and not just the industry, needs into the forefront. That will be good for us as people and business people.


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