In Industry First, UM Appoints Brand Safety Officer to Lead New Advertiser Protection Bureau

Joshua Lowcock discusses his role at 4A's Accelerate conference

Joshua Lowcock will lead UM’s efforts on the bureau to stop brands’ ads from popping up alongside damaging content. Getty Images
Headshot of Lindsay Rittenhouse

IPG Mediabrands’ UM Worldwide is the first to appoint an executive to the 4A’s Advertiser Protection Bureau, a new collective committee aimed at addressing the ever-pressing issue of brand safety that will involve all of advertising’s major holding companies.

In an industry first, Joshua Lowcock was named global brand safety officer. Lowcock will lead UM’s efforts on the bureau to stop brands’ ads from popping up alongside damaging content and ensure accountability is taken when these issues arise. He will continue to serve in his current role at UM as executive vice president and U.S. chief digital officer.

UM's first brand safety officer, Joshua Lowcock.

The Advertiser Protection Bureau was unveiled earlier today at the 4A’s Accelerate conference in Miami. Liaisons from Dentsu Aegis Network, GroupM, Havas Media, Horizon Media, IPG Mediabrands, MDC Partners, Omnicom Media Group and Publicis Media will participate.

Speaking to Adweek at the conference, Lowcock said his appointment (and the formation of the bureau) mainly means two things: that holding companies will start “responding collectively, not as competitors” to scandals, like those recently plaguing Facebook, and that they will begin “lifting the level of conversation around brand safety with clients.”

“I’d love to say they [will] go away, and I’d love to make my job redundant and not needed, but we have to face the reality,” Lowcock said.

Every holding company has its own way of tracking brand safety concerns within its own networks through proprietary tools, Lowcock added. But there’s no way of knowing if an issue that affects UM’s clients is also affecting WPP’s clients or Publicis Groupe’s clients—and they often do, like the industry saw when YouTube ran a multitude of brands’ ads alongside inappropriate videos. He said the bureau will be able to uncover the “magnitude of a problem” quickly.

“Every time this happens, there’s no competitive advantage,” Lowcock noted. “It doesn’t make advertising better … It hurts everyone in the industry … And there’s controversy. This is a way to get ahead of it.”

He also pointed out that the bureau will not “drive new standards” or “build a new platform.”

“It’s really about driving collaboration and shared intelligence,” Lowcock explained.

The announcement comes as Facebook CEO and founder Mark Zuckerberg descends on Congress today to address the scandal with Cambridge Analytica involving the misuse of consumer data.

@kitten_mouse Lindsay Rittenhouse is a staff writer at Adweek, where she specializes in covering the world of agencies and their clients.