NEW YORK: Many brands continue to opt for cheaper, but riskier, ad inventory despite a spate of digital safety scandals over the past couple of years, according to the global brand safety officer at IPG Mediabrands’ UM Worldwide.

Joshua Lowcock, who also acts as the agency’s chief digital and innovation officer, told Mumbrella in an interview that if brands want to ensure their ads appear on secure websites, then they will need to pay for it. There is a trade-off.

“Clients prefer the cheaper inventory: not the cheapest, but there is a lot of pressure on price. There’s always that price trade-off; if you want cheaper media, you’re in a more risky environment,” he said.

“If I give a one to ten scale – one is very conservative and ten is not caring where your ad goes – and a client says I want the price of ten and the brand safety of one, [they need to know] they’re mutually exclusive.”

In addition to his work at UM Worldwide, Lowcock was this month named global brand safety officer at the 4A’s Advertiser Protection Bureau, a new cross-industry committee aimed at addressing ongoing issues about brand safety.

When asked about his new role, Lowcock made clear that he sees the Advertiser Protection Bureau as having a global remit to improve digital standards.

He also emphasised the need for all industry practitioners to work together to overcome problems and said there is no point in media agencies competing with each other over their brand safety credentials.

“Brand safety doesn’t just affect one market. It’s worldwide in nature, in scale and affects global partners,” he said. “This role is aimed at holding partners globally accountable because right now when a brand safety issue occurs in one market, getting platform providers to respond in every region requires global executive oversight.”

He likened the problem with how banks co-operate on tackling credit card fraud. “All of the banks co-operate on credit card intelligence because there is no competitive advantage to say we’re better at credit card fraud than the others,” he said.

“You would lose favour with consumers and credit cards in general. There is no advantage for media agencies to say: ‘We are more brand safe’. It hurts clients, publishers, ad tech platforms and it undermines consumer trust,” he added.

The extent of the challenge ahead for Lowcock and his team was underlined at the end of last week with news that an investigation by CNN had discovered that ads from more than 300 brands and organisations, including five US government agencies, have run on YouTube channels alongside extremist material.

According to CNN, this included content promoting white nationalism, neo-Nazism, paedophilia, conspiracy theories and other inappropriate subjects.

YouTube responded to the report with a statement. “When we find that ads mistakenly ran against content that doesn’t comply with our policies, we immediately remove those ads,” a spokeswoman said.

“We know that even when videos meet our advertiser friendly guidelines, not all videos will be appropriate for all brands. But we are committed to working with our advertisers and getting this right.”

Sourced from Mumbrella, 4A’s, CNN; additional content by WARC staff