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J&J marketer: ‘We all need to take responsibility for brand safety’

A senior Johnson & Johnson digital marketer said yesterday that the company has started asking its media agency more questions about the accuracy of programmatic ad targeting after a number of “shocking” ad placements.

Louisa Thraves at Mumbrela360

Louisa Thraves at Mumbrella360 yesterday

Speaking in a session hosted by ad tech firm Integral Science at Mumbrella360 yesterday, Louisa Thraves, senior digital marketing strategist for J&J Pacific, said the company didn’t want to “bury our head in the sand anymore” and needed to take responsibility for ensuring its digital ads do not end up in the wrong places.”

“It’s been pretty eye-opening, it’s fair to say,” she said in response to a question from Integral Science’s David Hahn on her views on the challenges of digital marketing. “We’re concerned. There are several challenges in digital and one is definitely our media quality,” she said.

“If you’d asked me a year ago I would have said ‘yes, digital targeting, it’s really sophisticated’,” she said, before citing a case where ads for sanitary pads brand Carefree had hit the wrong targets.

“We didn’t want to reach guys with this brand. And we had some pretty shocking results from the campaign. It was an eye-opener. What we were buying – what we’re signing off on our media plan – was not representative of what we wanted in the market. So we’re asking a lot more questions about that now.”

Johnson's BabyThraves recounted the time that, one year ago, a pre-roll video for Johnson’s Baby products ran before a music video featuring a performer charged with sex offences.

“How did we find out? From a consumer calling our call centre who thought we did it on purpose,” she said.

“Some marketers find it hard to get their heads around programmatic. Consumers aren’t going to know that we didn’t put that ad intentionally.”

“That was a wake up call. We couldn’t bury our heads in the sand. As brands, we really need to take responsibility for our brand safety. We are the brand owner.”

Thraves said that J&J is a lot more “proactive” now in how the company works with its media agency, which is now UM after a global realignment saw the account move from OMD at the end of last year.

“We’ve got to make sure we’ve got the right measures in place,” she said.

Thraves said that she wanted to have the same confidence in digital that she has in TV, while pointing out that television audiences have been declining.

“We want to feel as confident [in digital] as we felt with TV. We knew [with TV] the exact audience we were reaching at the exact time. We’ve got to get as close to that as we can with our programmatic buys.

“To do that we need transparency, and we need third party measurement, and we need it across all of our publishers so we’re not measuring unfairly or differently.”

Thraves acknowledged that J&J is “still on a journey” to make digital marketing more transparent.

“We need to make sure that we’re asking a lot more questions about how this is measured. Because obviously it’s different for different tech providers and for different channels. We know we’ve got a lot of work to do there in terms of understanding how we can improve.”

“But at the moment, in comparison with TV and magazines – yes, of course you get some wastage, but you kind of accept that [with those media].”

“Where there’s an expectation that we’re reaching an audience with digital, that’s where we’ve been quite shocked by some of the results.”

Thraves used as an example of a brand that could be damaged by erroneous media placements, cold and flu remedy Codral, which she said could never be associated with alcohol in an advertising environment.

“The brand manager for Codral will sit with the agency, talk it through and make sure before we go live that those parameters are in place.”

In response to a question about the role of the media agency in ensuring brand safety, Thraves commented: “They’re still managing the integral system for us. What we’re now saying is can we sit down together, and as brand owners can we tell you about our sensitivities so that you can then plug it into the system.”

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