Bank of America creates brand safety officer role to help it ‘clean up house’

Bank of America / Credit: Bank of America

Bank of America has created a ‘brand safety officer’ role to help it “clean up house” amid the ongoing concern from advertisers about ads appearing alongside questionable content, ad fraud and transparency.

Speaking at the CMO Summit at Mobile World Congress today (28 February), the bank’s senior vice president and enterprise media executive, Lou Paskalis, declined to name the new hire, but revealed that she will be tasked with protecting the brand, and its customers, in addition to ensuring the bank gets what it pays for from its estimated $1bn-plus ad spend.

The Drum has contacted the Bank of America for more information on the role and who has been appointed. It is understood a formal announcement will be made soon.

Paskalis explained that the need for the role emerged as its executive team became increasingly aware of the risk digital advertising poses following the spate issues on platforms, including YouTube and Facebook, that made headlines globally.

Its marketing team realized that if drastic action wasn’t taken, how its advertising budget is managed may be a decision taken out of the department.

"I get a text from my chief financial officer every time there is news about a brand safety issue. I know why he is sending them to me... at some point he is going to say 'gee is marketing safe to invest in?' and we don't want that,” said Paskalis.

“We have to clean up our house right now.”

Paskalis applauded the efforts of Unilever's chief marketing officer Keith Weed and P&G's chief brand officer Mark Pritchard to force change in the industry.

Both have expressed concerns about brand safety and ad transparency over the last few years. In particular, Paskalis referred to Pritchard's claim that 2018 will be the year of brand safety.

"It is a function of the marketer to hold to account the individual platforms to get better. I applaud what Pritchard and Weed are doing and I am with them in spirit,” he said.

"To make more relevant experiences, we require high quality and pristine data, and if so much of that data is co-opted because it is non-human traffic or agenda-driven, I am not getting the best signal.

To ensure it’s not relying on the likes of Google and Facebook to give it data back on consumer behavior, Paskalis revealed that alongside the hire of a chief safety officer it was also looking to hire a “cultural anthropologist”.

On a separate stage at the conference in Barcelona, former Publicis chief executive Maurice Levy said “several” of the holding group's clients had pulled ad spend from Facebook and Google in wake of the damaging headlines of content appearing next to violence, racism, and pornography.

"It happened in 2017, it's not happened in 2018 yet," he revealed. "Several clients have said stop. It’s been a very interesting discussion. They are extremely serious. They are trying to find the right solution."

Additional reporting by Jen Faull.

This month’s issue of The Drum magazine focuses on the mobile sector with insights on the democratization of photography and interview with US recording artist Ryan Leslie. Buy your copy of this issue and other copies through The Drum website.

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