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Lollback: Australians ‘rational’ on brand safety scare

Advertisers in Australia have remained rational in light of the storm over brand safety that has erupted in the UK and US in regard to Google and YouTube, according to GroupM chief executive Mark Lollback. Major clients in international markets fear that programmatic placement could position their advertising alongside questionable content, especially on sites with...

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Advertisers in Australia have remained rational in light of the storm over brand safety that has erupted in the UK and US in regard to Google and YouTube, according to GroupM chief executive Mark Lollback.

Major clients in international markets fear that programmatic placement could position their advertising alongside questionable content, especially on sites with user generated and curated content like YouTube.

Numerous brands, such as The Guardian, US pharmaceutical giant GSK, the British Government, and large advertising and public relations company Havas, have withdrawn from the sites because of concerns over placement. The exodus widened overnight, as four major US brands including telcos AT&T and Verizon pulled advertising, joining the growing number of UK brands. No Australian brands have yet pulled their ad spend.

The advertiser concern follows a recent report in The Times of London that revealed programmatic advertisements from major advertisers had been displayed alongside white supremacist, homophobic and Islamic extremist content.

Google has launched a review of the problem, apologised on Monday and said on Tuesday it had revamped its policies to give advertisers more control.

Mr Lollback believes that Australia has had “quite a rational and balanced response” to major issues surrounding online ad spending. He said Australian marketers understood the challenges faced online in regard to brand safety

“I can say that there is, here in Australia, a contingent approach to the current challenges. I don’t think anybody here is blind or naive to the situation and certainly we are having conversations with clients, but we are not getting a blanket response from clients where they are asking to be fully removed from those channels.

“The challenge for us is when we land on curated sites, like YouTube, which we believe in. the challenge for that site is we cannot guarantee 100 per cent brand safety,” he said.

While this can be a concern for brands, Mr Lollback believes that advertisers should remain cool.

“Does that mean there is a mass exodus? I don’t think so. I do think it will cause both us and the marketing community to possibly take a step back and actually say we want good content, that is actually viewed in the appropriate environment … and that may cause some reappraisal.

“There is no doubt there will be global pressure on Google and any other site with consumer-created content. Google is no doubt taking this seriously.”

Mr Lollback believes marketers concerns with Google advertising will only be rectified if the company takes a broad approach, addressing measurement, brand safety and viewability.

“At the end of the day, [online platforms] are offering a consumer proposition, but the revenue is generated through advertising. For all intents and purposes they are a media vendor. And they need to, and should be, held to account like other media vendors. So that when money is invested in those channels there is the ability to measure that and figure out whether that is effective or not,” he said.

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