How GroupM’s First Brand Safety Director Plans to Safeguard Clients Online

Piracy, fraud and the problem of complexity

Headshot of Katie Richards


Who John Montgomery

Current gig Global evp, brand safety, GroupM

Previous gig North American chairman, GroupM Connect

Age 63

Twitter @taxidodger

Adweek: The brand safety role is a new one. Why did GroupM need to create this position?   

John Montgomery: As opportunities with data and measurability and new efficiencies emerge in the digital supply chain, so does complexity. When there's complexity, there are tons of intermediaries, and where there are tons of intermediaries, it makes things more complex. Inevitably there are risks that appear—not just fraud—but risks of are my ads being seen? Are my ads being placed in appropriate positions? Am I getting the right target audiences that I asked for? All of these potential risk areas emerge and whilst clients are moving funds from linear into digital, they are also saying we really want to make sure that our brands are safe, we're getting what we asked for and that we enjoy the efficiencies that digital promises.

You're just under two months into the new role. How's it going?

It's only been a couple of weeks but there's already been so much positive reinforcement for the role. There have been requests from every single region asking, "Hey, when can you help? Can you help us with a viewability standard?" It's gone a little quickly for my taste. I haven't fully handed over my other job yet. I think it will take a little while to settle in, but there's been a very encouraging response from the marketplace.

What are your priorities when it comes to brand safety?

I think our concern is to make sure we've got the right measurements and methodologies in place for us to be able to understand the brand safety in a digital supply chain and to understand where the risks are and to measure progress against those as we mitigate those risks. I want to make sure that we've got third-party measurements in place in all of the markets around the world.

How will you accomplish this?    

We've done an audit of what brand safety protocols are in place around the world. We've asked every market­­—we haven't gotten the results back. I'm hoping to get them back in about a month—we've asked every market to say what is the state of brand safety in [that] market, what measurements are in place. We're busy doing that audit right now to see if we can figure out what the needs are and what the priorities are and what to tackle first. We will probably gravitate toward the markets with the highest spend. For instance, China is an interesting market where a lot of the impressions are still first party served, so you can't really start measuring viewability in any sophisticated sense until we've got basic measurements in place. China would be up there. Certainly the top European markets—U.K., Germany, France, Italy, Spain—would be top markets, too.

How optimistic are you about preventing online fraud and piracy?

While we haven't slain the fraud dragon, it's locked in a cage, and we have it under control. As long as we use the measures we've put in place for brand protection and fraud protection, what we really want to do is make sure that we roll those out now to other regions as digital takes hold in the same way.

This story first appeared in the September 5, 2016 issue of Adweek magazine. Click here to subscribe.

@ktjrichards Katie Richards is a staff writer for Adweek.