Digital ad measurement company DoubleVerify has issued a mea culpa for misrepresenting X’s brand safety rating to advertisers.

“We apologize for any confusion this may have caused to X and to our customers in the course of reviewing your campaign performance on X,” DoubleVerify CEO Mark Zagorski said in a letter to customers.

DoubleVerify says the graphical error was found in the display of X’s brand safety rating on a dashboard that is used by advertisers.  The ad tech company says the underlying data available to brands was correct.

X CEO Linda Yaccarino, in an email to X partners, said it sent an “extremely misleading” message to advertisers about X’s brand safety rating.

In addition, the error was in place for four and half months, between October 2023 and March 2024, before being detected by engineers at X.

“DoubleVerify must be mortified by this high-profile failure. This is their business, and at least in this case they got some key details wrong. X has every reason to be upset with the mistake,” Jim Anderson told BNN Bloomberg in an interview.  Anderson previously served as CEO of social marketing firm SocialFlow, working with publishers and advertisers for more than a decade.

Major advertisers are required to use data from companies such as DoubleVerify to determine if platforms are safe for their brands.

X’s actual brand safety score during the period in question was above 99.9 per cent, which DoubleVerify says “exceeds global benchmarks for brand safety.”

However, data reviewed by X found that in some cases, the ratings being presented by DoubleVerify to advertisers were as low as 70 per cent.

Executives at X were also troubled to learn that the DoubleVerify error occurred only with X and not rival platforms.

Elon Musk acknowledged the correction in a post on X.

“Thank you DoubleVerify for correcting your mistake regarding brand safety on this platform. When measured accurately, brand safety on X is extremely good.”

X, which has championed free speech since Musk’s acquisition of the business formerly known as Twitter in 2022, has battled a barrage of headlines regarding how brands feel about advertising on its platform.

“Keep in mind these errors occurred during a period where some advertisers were already surprised by comments Elon Musk directed at advertisers who had left the platform,” industry watcher Jim Anderson said in a phone interview.

The company recently elevated Kylie McRoberts to the role of Head of Safety, while also hiring former Publicis executive Yale Cohen to ensure brands feel safe about advertising on X.

Yaccarino said in a post she herself has had hundreds of meetings with partners to discuss brand safety.

“Linda Yaccarino has a long track record in the advertising industry, and has been prioritizing brand safety at X. That’s exactly what you would expect an ad pro to do,” Anderson added.  “Advertisers will likely make decisions about X based on what the brand safety graph shows, in addition to what Elon Musk says or does.”

Yaccarino said in an X post that the misleading brand rating had a “significant impact” on the company’s business.

The list of brands that had access to data displayed by DoubleVerify included Amazon, Anheuser-Busch, Charles Schwab, Disney, FedEx, GM, McDonald’s, Mondelez, Samsung, Sony and Uber.

Yaccarino is now calling on advertisers to review any ad campaign choices that were made during the more than four month period in question.

“Now that the error has been recognized, apologized for and corrected -- I urge those advertisers who have made partnership decisions with X based on the erroneous data to reconsider. Your customers are on X and they will certainly thank you.”