Advertisers should be wary of spend with online platforms

13 June 2018

Advertisers have been told to be wary of spend with online platforms such as Facebook and Google.

Speaking to delegates at ProcureCon Marketing in London, David Wheldon, president of the World Federation of Advertisers and chief marketing officer at RBS, accused Facebook and Google of “not using their power responsibly” and said advertisers needed to “stop falling in love with the shiny and new”.

He said: “They [Facebook and Google] need to be held to account and it’s time that advertisers around the world joined up to do that. This group of people here is absolutely key to that.”

Referring to the recent revelations that YouTube was running adverts next to extremist content – which led hundreds of brands to pull their adverts – Wheldon said buyers needed to “think hard about what are the metrics: are they reliable, are they fair, is our brand safe? You need to ask [the platforms] some tougher questions.”

At the time, YouTube said it was committed to working with advertisers to ensuring adverts only run against appropriate videos.

Wheldon also said it was important for advertisers to have an arm’s length observer in the form of an outsourced agency to weed out bad ideas, even if a business has decided to take advertising in-house.

Although RBS has its own in-house studio, one of the major changes Wheldon introduced after joining the company three years ago, he said the bank still uses other external agencies.

He said: “I always bear in mind the Pepsi Kendall Jenner example of what goes wrong if you trust in-house agencies too much, because someone somewhere thought that was an excellent [idea]. It was an internal agency and they were completely wrong.”

The 2017 Pepsi ad campaign depicted a protest where Jenner walks up to the police line and gives an officer a can of Pepsi. The advert was pulled after it drew widespread criticism for drawing on the Black Lives Matter protests. At the time Pepsi apologised and said it “clearly missed the mark”.

While many businesses outsourcing advertising now work much closer with their agencies than they used to, Wheldon said it was still important for an advertiser to keep a distance from their agency.

He said: “We don’t want [agency] people to become just like us. We want you to maintain distance and perspective. You need people to say, ‘That’s wrong, don’t do that,’ and I worry a little bit that when you blend in too much you lose that.”

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