GroupM's John Montgomery Takes Role to Combat Digital Ad Concerns Globally

WPP Vet Assumes New 'Brand Safety' Post Focused on 'Inventory Quality Issues'

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John Montgomery
John Montgomery Credit: Group M

GroupM has created a role dedicated to implementing global standards that address brands' long list of digital ad concerns, such as viewability, ad-blocking and fraud. John Montgomery, a vet of the WPP-owned media agency network, will assume the full-time role and title of exec VP-brand safety.

Mr. Montgomery will work with the network's shops and divisions, including Mindshare, MEC, MediaCom, Maxus, Essence and Xaxis, among others, to create a "coherent set of global standards that operationalize brand safety for GroupM's clients in every market in which they advertise," the company said in a statement.

What that means, explained Mr. Montgomery, is scaling existing standards, and creating new standards that address client concerns around "inventory quality issues."

"We've been very busy on that," he said. "Clients have acknowledged that the brand integrity issue has been really important for them."

The remit is broad, but first he'll look at creating a global standard for viewability and expanding anti-piracy efforts abroad, said Mr. Montgomery. "My first job is to figure out what this looks like around the world, and then take 10 markets and roll out as much as we can between now and the end of year," he said. He already started to audit international offices, but the goal will be to expand and replicate brand safety efforts that started in the U.S., where GroupM already set standards for digital advertising viewability, third-party audience verification and anti-piracy controls.

For example, the industry's anti-fraud organization, Trustworthy Accountability Group (TAG), and GroupM last year said they'd require publishers to have their anti-piracy capabilities certified by TAG or work with other certified third-party vendors.

A couple years ago, the industry settled on calling an ad "viewable" if 50% of it is visible for one second. Soon after, GroupM set its own standard, saying it would pay publishing partners for ads that are 100% visible, although not for any minimum amount of time.

More recently, the agency network told Digiday it would discourage publishers from serving ads to people with ad-blocking software installed via an ad reinsertion technique.

The list doesn't stop there. "Privacy is a big issue now with Europeans required to meet standards for transporting data from Europe to the U.S.," he added. "Clients in [international] regions are saying these things have got to be a concern for us as well."

Mr. Montgomery will report to Rob Norman, global chief digital officer and GroupM chairman in North America.

Since January 2015, Mr. Montgomery has served as North American chairman of GroupM Connect, a role in which he oversaw the groups housing over 400 social, search and programmatic staffers. Prior to that, he was chief operating officer of GroupM Interaction in North America where he led digital data strategy, innovation and policy.

He first joined WPP in 1989 as media director for Ogilvy in South Africa, and later launched Mindshare in the region. He later relocated to New York to lead the interactive media practice for Mindshare and Ogilvy, and was subsequently named Global CEO of Mindshare Interaction.

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