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Brand Safety in India is still nascent: John Montgomery, GroupM

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Brand Safety in India is still nascent: John Montgomery, GroupM

John Montgomery, GroupM ‘s Global Executive Vice President of Brand Safety, talks about points that marketers today need to be mindful of to ensure brand safety, how to mitigate ad fraud and highlights the need for awareness of brand safety in India today . 

Montgomery was appointed to this role in August 2016 to ensure that GroupM clients’ brands are protected from risks in the digital supply chain such as fraud and piracy and to ensure that the digital components of their plans are effective in every region.

Edited excerpts …

Do you think Brands today need to appoint a Brand Safety Officer, as it has become even more important now?

You could look at it in two ways, while it will be useful to have somebody involved in this way, I think what will be more effective is if you communicate the importance of brand safety to  everybody in your organisation  and make it part of everybody’s responsibility.  What we are finding in our organisation is that it is good to have one key person who will make sure that we cascade the information integral to brand safety and sensitise the whole organisation at all levels, this also enables key leaders to become brand custodians.   

What are the points that Marketers and Brand Custodians need to be mindful of when it comes to brand safety?

Most importantly, we need to understand what levels of fraud we are at. The second thing is to start changing the measurement paradigm from CPMs to ‘Cost Per Human Views’ metric because there is no point in measuring people who are not there. When we talk about view- ability we need to talk about the essence of view-ability. If an ad cannot be seen, it has no value in it, that is why the view- ability standard needs to be a hundred per cent. By looking at raw CPMs we are acknowledging non viewable and invalid traffic that is not worth measuring.

The third thing is, I want clients to start acknowledging quality by optimising towards it and what I mean by that is we should start rewarding those publishers that give us better quality inventory with more investment and optimise away from those who don’t.

The other thing is, if you are using YouTube or Facebook there is no such thing as 100 per cent brand safety, if we are able to invest in security we will be 99.9 per cent sure. We should all understand that there is some risk and we will do whatever we can and approach this problem with zero tolerance and we will do everything we possibly can but there is no guarantee.

How would you rate India when it comes to brand safety versus the global scenario?

I feel it is still nascent, maybe between 5 and 6 on 10.

Though sophisticated agencies and clients particularly multinationals know about it, and they have been monitoring brand safety for some time, I think some of the local or smaller brands aren’t yet aware and I think it is important for us to get them to understand how we can stay away from the risks.

How big a problem is ad-fraud in terms of scale and valuation, give us a reference in terms of global and local scenario.

The point is there is fraudulent inventory out there and the whole point is you use technology to avoid it. When you talk about the value of the risk it is just a number. What I can tell you is clients buying quality inventory is the main way to keep your brand safe. Some countries in Europe have been able to bring it down to under 2 per cent and in the US it is under 3 per cent and we have terms and conditions with our vendors if it is not under 3 per cent,  give our money back. So the risk is curtailed if you mitigate against it.

If you had to give us a sense of the scale of ad-fraud in India?

My issue with India is that the measurement is not fully in place, so the India numbers are actually between 5 per cent and 40 per cent. It depends. We need to measure it to fully understand the level of fraud. The level of fraud in Asia is higher because we are not measuring it, measurement needs to be set in place and standardised for this to happen. 

What is it that you are doing for the industry to measure ad fraud?

We at GroupM have already had discussions with the MMA for a treaty to see how we can help as an industry and make this better for everybody.

So by the end of the year can we expect concrete steps towards this?

Yes, I hope so. I would think that we should be able to show progress on this by the end of the year.

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