Over the next few hours, marketers across the U.S. will be watching the events of Inauguration Day closely, ready to pause, tweak or block ads from appearing against problematic content should things go sideways. While some marketers will stick to blunt tactics like blocking ads from news sites entirely, many are turning to more nuanced strategies that also ensure their dollars support quality journalism. Desperate times call for accurate measures.

Of course, there will always be those marketers whose first response in any crisis is to steer ads clear of news — media owners be damned. It happened when rioters stormed the Capitol building in Washington D.C. earlier this month. But often, those were short, precautionary pauses and the ads were back on the same sites within 48 hours. Brand suitability strategies are showing signs of strain, but not panic.

“Ahead of the inauguration, we’re advising clients not to rely on keyword lists and instead take a more considered approach to where they invest in media to protect their brands,” said Joshua Lowcock, global brand safety officer at Universal McCann.

Emphasis on “considered.” Keyword blocklists are increasingly part of rather than the crux of brand suitability strategies.

In fact, Universal McCann execs are telling clients to run rather than block as many ads as necessary around the inauguration so long as they buy ads from either lists of approved sites and words or private marketplaces of premium inventory. Before those ads are bought, they’re mapped against a calendar of all the events related to last year’s presidential election, from the day the ballots were confirmed to the middle of next month. The message is clear: prepare for the unexpected.

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