Vice slams brand safety keyword blacklists after alarming probe

The media company reveals troubling data that shows terms like "gay" are placed higher on blacklists over "rape," "death" and "heroin."

Vice is calling on brands to reconsider keyword blacklists as a tool for brand safety after unearthing major flaws which steer marketers away from topics like race, religion and LGBTQ+.

The publisher, which investigated its own keyword data infractions over the course of 18 months, found that the term "gay" to be one of the most flagged -- placed higher than "rape," "death," "heroin," and "gun."

Vice released the alarming research at the Interactive Advertising Bureau’s NewFronts West in Los Angeles today. Representatives urged the industry to refresh its practices.

"Vice’s storytelling lends itself to the most diverse generations in history," said Dominique Delport, global chief revenue officer and president of international at Vice. "Our content aims to accurately represent these young people while simultaneously promoting diversity and inclusion.

"Unfortunately, the improper use of keyword blacklists is counterproductive to this mission, resulting in unintended consequences. We hope more brands will join in this discussion and help set a new industry standard."

The research also found that other LGBTQ+ descriptors including "transgender" and "bisexual" were placed higher on the keywords blacklist than "shooting," "porn," "killing," "drugs," and "war."

Heritage and race terms including "Asian," "Muslim" and "interracial" landed top spots on the list.

Vice has become the first company to implement Oracle Data Cloud’s contextual brand safety solution for video in a bid to uphold inclusiveness throughout all of its content while simultaneously fostering brand safe environments,

Rather than assigning brand safety risk through keywords, the publisher will now feed its content through the Oracle Data Cloud’s Contexual Intelligence platform to analyze subjects and themes. Based on a detailed analysis of the content, Oracle Data Cloud assigns a brand safety score. Brands then have the option to allow or block their advertising from running alongside video based on the specific score for that content.

"Oracle Data Cloud’s Contextual Intelligence platform is designed to drive deeper understanding of many forms of content, and we’re excited to debut our Video Context solution with Vice," said Andrew Smith, head of publisher strategy for Oracle Data Cloud.

"For the first time in market, we are releasing technology that allows for advertising decisioning against in-stream video context, optimizing the environment for pre-roll and mid-roll video advertising. Now in its third year, our collaboration with Vice has always explored new frontiers of our Contextual Intelligence technology, and we’re excited to continue to build on this legacy."

Vice will begin testing the product on select campaigns before the end of 2018.

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