Holding companies put competition aside to launch brand safety bureau

Media agencies across Publicis Media, IPG, Omnicom, WPP, Dentsu, MDC and more are coming together.


Media agencies across holding companies are putting aside their differences to form a coalition focused on brand safety.

The Advertiser Protection Bureau (APB) will allow agency groups to work together for the brands they serve by notifying each other when they see any ads -- including those outside their network -- in unsafe environments.

Founding members of the APB include executives from UM Worldwide, Dentsu Aegis Network, GroupM, Havas Media, Horizon Media, IPG Mediabrands, MDC Partners, Omnicom Media Group and Publicis Media. Each holding company has committed to dedicating a brand safety leader within their network to serve on the bureau.

"What we’re looking to do is create an environment where we share knowledge and experience and jointly hold partners accountable," said Joshua Lowcock, who was appointed to the newly created role of UM Worldwide global brand safety officer this week. Lowcock will also retain his title of U.S. chief digital officer for the agency group.

"You’ve seen competitor agencies and competitor clients affected by the same incident," he added. "It’s not about anyone taking credit, it’s about protecting brands so that whatever went wrong, we can immediately address it and move the industry forward."

One of the first things Lowcock will drive at UM is embedding brand safety as a requirement by making it a key performance indicator (KPI).

It’s not a case of creating a new industry standard or critiquing rivals’ work. Lowcock said the system will work like any bank does when investigating credit card fraud.

"If your credit card was fraudulently used by one bank, another bank gets an alert that you were exposed," he said.

The formation of the APB is the first step in a list of actions that nearly 100 4A’s members and industry leaders outlined and rallied around at the Advertising Assurance Forum in March.

Additional steps outlined under the Advertising Assurance initiative include:

Develop a risk management module
APB has a clear mission to work with advertisers to develop categorizations of risk across a spectrum from most safe to least safe. The spectrum will allow agencies, advertisers and publishers/platforms to better delineate each advertiser’s appetite for risk and appropriateness.

Create a code of decency
Working with the Media Rating Council, Inc., APB agencies will help establish a set of ground rules that align baseline expectations for safety through a new set of standards within the Media Rating Council’s (MRC) Brand Safety Guidelines, currently in an initial draft. Down the road, media agencies will also work with the MRC to identify efforts and methodologies to mitigate fake news.

Educate the ecosystem
The APB will develop an industry playbook that will include new standards, metrics, methodologies and tools to combat unsafe environments for both brands and consumers.

"When it comes to brand and consumer safety, media agencies have to put competition aside," said Louis Jones, EVP, media & data at the 4A’s. "Brand safety and the negative impact it has on consumer trust is an issue that affects everyone. APB is our first step in breaking down the silos to create a united community that protects the health of all brands, while keeping consumers safe, too. Of course, this isn’t just an agency conversation; our industry has to have active participation from brands and publishers to be successful in improving the litany of issues around this topic."


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