LONDON: The issue of brand safety has been propelled into the headlines by an analysis which claims major brands are unwittingly funding terrorists and pornographers through digital advertising placed on their sites, and points a finger of blame at media agencies.

According to The Times, which carried out a study of online extremist content, "blacklists designed to prevent digital adverts from appearing next to it are not fit for purpose".

It reported that ads for well-known brands had appeared on various hate sites and YouTube videos created by supporters of extremist groups and were likely generating tens of thousands of pounds a month for the extremists.

Industry figures expressed their concern at these findings and blamed programmatic advertising.

"Programmatic advertising is a big concern for us and the whole advertising industry," agreed Hicham Felter, a spokesman for ISBA, who explained that "there is a greater risk of ads appearing in violent, pornographic, extremist and other 'unsafe' brand environments because of the volume and speed at which programmatic trading is carried out".

But he added a kicker: "The suspicion is that the surge in programmatic trading is being fuelled by the profit media agencies can make rather than because it delivers better results for their clients."

Brands such as travel company TUI have allocated part of their digital budget to addressing brand safety issues and assessing whether partners meet industry good practice principles, but feel that agencies need to do more.

"It feels to me that if I'm already paying you for the advertising that we're delivering, the onus then is on you [agencies] to make sure that is legal, proper and right for us," Christian Armond, TUI's general manager of digital marketing, told an event last year.

"[Brand safety] is the number one issue [for us]," he added. "I'd rather not advertise than be compromised with my ads appearing in the wrong place."

Data sourced from The Times; additional content by Warc staff