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GroupM tips marketing spend to hit $1 trillion in 2017, and seeks added brand safety from media owners


By The Drum, Editorial

August 2, 2016 | 5 min read

WPP’s media investment arm has today released figures forecasting that despite a slowdown from its earlier released 2016 figures, total marketing spend is set to hit £1 trillion next year, with money spent on paid-for media to account for over half of that sum.

WPP made the forecasts in its latest report

This year, next year

Total media spend is set to hit £552bn mark next year, accounting for a 4.3 percent annual increase from this year, with total ad spend in APAC leading this growth (see chart), with the agency network noting that adding marketing services spend to the amount spent on ad space will bring this figure past £1 trillion in 2017.

Although, slowing growth in China and Brazil this year led GroupM to revise down its earlier 2016 growth estimate to 4.0 per cent from the 4.5 per cent earlier predicted, (net new investment of $22bn trimmed to $20.5bn).

GroupM's 2016 forecasts

These predications and more are published in GroupM’s biannual worldwide media and marketing forecast report 'This Year, Next Year'. The intelligence is drawn from data supplied by WPP’s worldwide resources in advertising, public relations, market research and specialist communications by GroupM’s futures director, Adam Smith.

New tech, new challenges

Although the report does not go into detail as to what media types will drive such growth, WPP chief Sir Martin Sorrell has been vocal on his belief that data and technology will be at the core of driving the company’s growth.

This has included significant investment in the ad tech space (including tens of millions on what would eventually become known as its Xaxis suite of tools, in preparation of the rise of automated media trading.

However, this has brought with it a new set of challenges, namely the task of safeguarding their clients’ brands in territory that was previously unchartered given the scale posed by automated media trading, where brands buy audience, not media placements.

Bids to provide brand safety

To assure clients as to its intentions of future-proofing their business, GroupM created the role of brand safety officer and appointed John Montgomery, who also serves as its ad accountability chief. This also involved him being tasked with clamping down on fraud globally, as well as safeguarding clients’ spend.

If publishers must contend with how automated advertising systems have (thus far) helped erode their advertising rate cards, then media buyers equally have to rein-in where, and how their clients’ ads will appear.

For instance, earlier this year, digital ads promoting US presidential candidates, Donald Trump and Hilary Clinton and Ted Cruz were served next to Isis propaganda videos on YouTube.

Again, the propensity for such instances happening, has been facilitated by rise of automated systems, hence the creation of Montgomery’s new role.

More prudent media buying

“With so many billions of impressions [being processed on a near daily basis] you can never be 100 per cent sure that ads won’t be served adjacent to inappropriate content,” conceded Montgomery.

However, he does add that GroupM’s various units have made their own moves to insulate themselves from the problem. This kicked off as far back as two years ago, when its automated media buying arm Xaxis ceased to buy inventory from open exchanges.

Third party verification

In addition, GroupM has paired with various ad verification platforms, such as Integral Ad Science and DoubleVerify to block ads being served against content they deem inappropriate.

“So while you can’t be 100 per cent certain, you can be reasonably assured,” says Montgomery, adding that press reporting on the matter (among other areas of transparency), had helped bring pressure to bear from clients.

“In the US, we’ve been at the forefront of anti-piracy, requiring publishers [or ad networks] not to place our ads against such content. We really needed to clean things up, and [instructional] documents are just not enough, you need people to look after this incredibly important area,” he said, explaining the decision to make this move now.

Pairing with authorities to stamp out crime

Part of this drive is insisting on only paying for fraud-free ad impressions, as well as working with companies on the sell-side of the industry to ensure their contracts reflect this.

Also included in this transparency initiatives are a commitment to working with law enforcement to help pursue those that transgress intellectual property laws, as well as those who would defraud advertisers.

“The best way [to dissuade such fraudsters] is to follow the money, make it less attractive, and they’ll go elsewhere,” he adds.

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