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Mastercard introduces 'risk management' roles into marketing division

Tasked with protecting the Mastercard brand on all fronts, the new hire has been working in the position for “a few months” / Mastercard

Mastercard has integrated risk management into the marketing department to safeguard the brand’s reputation in an increasingly complex market.

Where advertisers like Bank of America are investing in full-time ‘chief brand safety officer’ roles, chief marketing officer Raja Rajamannar has revealed that the 'risk management' role looks to protect the brand across more areas.

“Brand safety is just one part of it,” he told The Drum, explaining that in an industry where cybersecurity and privacy are posing real challenges for financial services brands he’s created a role that straddles both marketing and risk assessment.

Tasked with protecting the Mastercard brand on all fronts, the new hire has been working in the position for “a few months” in its New York headquarters. Although Mastercard declined to confirm the name of the individual appointed, it revealed their full title is vice-president for enterprise strategy, integrated marketing and communications.

Delving into the reason behind the hire and giving some insight into the remit Rajamannar – who froze Mastercard’s spend with YouTube following Google’s 2017 brand safety scandal – said risk management was a "much broader field" than just ensuring his brand didn't appear alongside questionable content.

"We're talking about brand reputation risks; brand safety risks; privacy risk; cybersecurity risks; financial risk, all within the context of marketing. So, what we have done at Mastercard has formed the function around risk management within marketing," he continued.

“[The new hire is] focused not only on brand safety, but she also looks at it all the risks from a marketing point of view; like what risks do we have and how do we take care of them and manage them?”.

Negating risk from the marketing department

Risk has always been a critical area of concern for other executives in the C-suite (like chief financial officers, chief operating officers and indeed chief execs) but Rajamannar’s decision to negate it from within the walls of the marketing department is indicative of a bigger shift internally.

With more responsibilities and data at their disposal than ever before, marketing bosses are making the transition from brand gatekeepers to brand evangelists, investing in roles and technology that show their team’s strategic value and contribution to businesses' bottom lines.

Speaking to The Drum at the end of 2018, Rajamannar was candid that brand safety (along with extracting value from the digital supply chain) remained a high priority for his team.

He's not alone. A recent report from DoubleVerify found that almost two years since ad misplacement because a national news story it is still the top concern among global marketers. This is down to an increase in brand safety-related incidents to the tune of 25%.

However, Rajamannar (who has just been crowned WFA Global Marketer of the Year) has been firm in that the discussion between brands and their partners needs to move beyond ads being published adjacent to “an arms dealing site, terrorist site, or pornography site". He believes, instead, that there are more nuanced conversations and considerations to be had.

“I might not want to be on a site where there’s wrestling," he explained. "Wrestling may not be bad in itself but it may not fit the character of my brand. This is a hypothetical example but it’s safety and fit I need to be sure of."

Mastercard was among the brands stop spending on YouTube at the height of the platform’s 2017 brand safety crisis. Although it resumed spend fairly quickly, a world in which it doesn't face the threat of ad misplacement the platform is far off.

It was only last week the site was forced to ban comments on videos of minors amid fears amid fears from advertisers that their own content could appear adjacent to communication between pedophiles.

As a financial brand, a potential privacy or security breach could also see Mastercard take a huge reputational or financial hit; something Rajamannar clearly recognised when carving out the new risk management role.

It's a hire other brands could learn from. TSB’s online banking meltdown in 2018, hackers and scammers waded into the confusing, chaotic situation and made huge sums of money by emptying people’s accounts, costing the business more than £175m. Equifax’s 2017 hack, meanwhile, dented brand perceptions by 33% after the information of over 143 million consumers was exposed, according to YouGov.

Rajamannar understands he's working in an industry where a single online observation can “destroy” a brand, which is why Mastercard's marketing and communications teams operate as one.

"Today's marketing is much more complex than marketing was a few years back, marketing and comms are no longer two different functions," he said. "They have to be integrated.

"One tweet can destroy or make a brand, so [if that happens] who is going to handle it: is it going to be the communications people or the marketing team? People have to be collapsed into one single department so they understand both the marketing and PR aspects of job."

You can the full interview with Raja in The Drum's forthcoming April issue.

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