GroupM Taps John Montgomery For New Global Brand Safety Role

john montgomeryWPP’s GroupM upended the industry’s mutual viewability standard back in 2014, when it promised to buy only 100% in-view ads for clients. Now it’s created an executive position to enforce that standard in all of its markets as well as to shield clients from a slew of other brand safety issues presented by digital advertising.

GroupM Connect chairman John Montgomery will head up this effort in the newly minted role of executive vice president of brand safety, the media buying umbrella announced on Monday.

In his new role, Montgomery will be responsible for broadening GroupM’s best practices around viewability, fraud, consumer privacy and ad blocking to international markets where they’re just starting to pick up steam.

“Our [international] teams have been saying, ‘Gosh, our clients are interested in what you’re doing in the US, and this is going to get to us sooner or later. Can you help us with these things?’” Montgomery said.

He will work as a close liaison with international operations teams at GroupM agencies to adapt its US standards to the needs of individual markets.

“We’ve got literally dozens of people responsible for these things,” Montgomery said. “I just really need to organize them and get them on board.”

Montgomery will spend the next few months transitioning from his previous role as chairman of GroupM Connect in North America, but he has already begun assessing brand safety across GroupM’s markets.

“I’ve created seven or eight categories of brand safety including viewabilty, fraud, malware, bots, verification, privacy and piracy,” Montgomery said. “I’ve sent them to all of our offices around the world and asked, ‘What are you doing, if anything, in these areas? What vendors are you using? What are you hearing from clients?’ It’s like a mini-audit globally.”

These surveys will help Montgomery determine the top 10 countries most at risk, where he will focus his initial efforts. He believes those will include China, Singapore, the UK, France, Germany and some Latin American markets.

“I can pretty much bet the top 10 will be the markets who are the biggest spenders in digital,” he said.

Part of the job will involve creating consistent global measurement standards for GroupM clients. In some markets, that will require putting basic US practices in place, such as, for example, implementing third-party ad serving and measurement in markets that still rely on first-party numbers. To do that, Montgomery will leverage GroupM’s preferred vendors, including VeriSite for antipiracy, as well as Moat, Integral Ad Science and DoubleVerify for fraud and viewability measurement.

“This absolutely won’t be a one-size-fits-all approach,” Montgomery said. “Although we are looking to do what we did in the US, there will be some markets we have to treat quite differently.”

In the near future, Montgomery expects to see a resurgence of privacy issues as the European Union takes a stricter stance on data sharing. And although it hasn’t hit their pocketbooks yet, ad blocking may soon limit advertisers’ reach to an increasingly expensive target audience, he said.

“There’s a ton of stuff we can do right now to improve the user experience,” Montgomery said. “Once we do that, we can in all conscience say, ‘We’ve made this a much lighter ad experience. Now turn off your ad blocker, or you won’t get access to this content.’ It’s very important that we do this in the right order, and I fear that many publishers are jumping to point B.”

A pioneer of GroupM’s brand safety efforts for many years, Montgomery sees the new title as a natural evolution of his role. As an early member of GroupM Interaction (a predecessor to GroupM Connect), he was responsible for driving programmatic adoption in international markets. He led GroupM’s privacy initiative in the US, lobbying Washington on behalf of the industry, and works closely with the Interactive Advertising Bureau and the Trustworthy Accountability Group.

“Because I led and wrote the strategy around all of our brand safety initiatives, it made sense for me to run this globally,” he said.

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