Montgomery: Brand Safety Is 'Table Stakes'

Brand safety is critical given that parts of the digital ecosystem are still like the Wild West. And it comes with price tag. 

"It's table stakes," says John Montgomery, global brand safety officer, GroupM during a Wednesday session at Cannes about how brand safety practices are evolving and what that means for brands and marketers. 

Brands can expect to pay more for it going forward. When brands are more selective about where their ads appear, "we remind them, your costs are going to be higher," says Brian Quinn, president, brand safety auditor OpenSlate, adding that YouTube will soon introduce three tiers of brand appropriate channels. 

GroupM, for its part, is leading this issue by developing its own safety guidelines, which include how ads must be viewed by humans in a brand safe environment. Also the group will only pay for media in a measured environment. 

Panelists agreed there is a safety continuum where each brand decides its own tolerance, ranging from clearly illegal, like counterfeiting, to the "dirty dozen" offenders, such as illegal drugs or profanity. 



If you want to be 100% brand safe, then you shouldn't place your brand across any user generated content, cautions Montgomery. 

There are broader implications when brands pull ads from channels that receive massive eyeballs. Heineken's marketing has been less effective after pulling its brand entirely from YouTube in light of the platform’s widely-reported brand safety scandals, says Ron Amram, global VP, media, Heineken. He adds that Heineken will return to the platform in the U.S. through a "robust filter" across safer channels, like Vevo, a video-hosting platform partially owned by parent Google. 

Admittedly, Heineken didn't always take brand safety into consideration. He admits the beer brand "got very lucky" that no one noticed when it's ads did appear across places they shouldn't have.

From a consumer standpoint, Montgomery points out that there is a vast difference between what people say and what they do, which somewhat muddles the debate about effective brand safety approaches. 

For instance, Edelman's research reveals 40% of people say they will delete social channels they find untrustworthy, yet Facebook's engagement actually increased after its Cambridge Analytica controversy and #DeleteFacebook hasn't created a blip, despite it being easier to delete than ever before, Montgomery noted.




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