Peter Horgan on how YouTube's crisis was catalyst for change

Pippa Chambers
By Pippa Chambers | 27 September 2017
Peter Horgan

While 'disappointing' at the time, YouTube's brand safety crisis this year was a major catalyst for much-needed change, says Omnicom CEO Peter Horgan.

Speaking to an audience of 1800 media execs and clients at YouTube's Brandcast 'upfronts-style' event in Sydney last night, Horgan thanked Google MD Jason Pellegrino for the work YouTube has done to tackle brand safety on the platform.

He said he was pleased to see YouTube move fast, deploying its resources quickly to address the issues and for providing new tools to safeguard brands on the platform.

“We were even more pleased to hear that brand safety on YouTube would open up to third party verification,” he added.

Despite the high praise he said it's a shame that it had to reach such a juncture in the first place.

“We were disappointed it took a crisis but you won't be the first organisation in history where a crisis has been a catalyst,” Horgan said frankly.

Horgan also urged collaboration with peak bodies such as the MFA and the AANA to mandate standards, saying we need to all work together secure the future of our industry.

See: More Aussie brands join YouTube boycott as advertisers demand discounts

An incredible challenge for brands

Horgan, who has been in the top job for 14 months since being promoted from OMD CEO, also spoke on how the fragmented media landscape is an incredible challenge for brands to cut through and how the consumer is bombarded by thousands of messaged every day.

“I think there will be many in this room aware of the challenge we now face as we navigate the noise and win the attention of the consumer of screens of all shapes and sizes,” he said. 

Horgan also took issue with the vast amount of industry voices clambering for attention, particularity during the important upfronts season, “where we face some big decisions for the year ahead”.

From academics to columnists, consultants and media owners, he said being inundated with mixed messages isn't helping the industry.

“There's voices pulling us in all directions asking us to pick sides and those sides appear to be polarised down a line of the old world and the new,” Horgan explained.

He said to read the headlines at face value you'd think it all comes down to a zero-sum game - a battle between a world of traditional versus digital; adding that he prefers to listen – to content owners, publishers, technology companies, “but most importantly my clients”.

“From those conversations I find the results of all this noise is a growing confusion and some frustration,” Horgan said.

He questioned who and what can clients trust as a source of truth in a world of multiple devices and platforms, “where each new shiny piece of technology seems to shine brighter than the last, or where the latest piece of research seems to offer certainty and comfort” - all while audiences become an even faster-moving target.

See: How YouTube is strengthening brand safety controls

Fundamentals stay the same

Horgan's overarching theme was to not get sidetracked.

“Don't get distracted by attention-grabbing new research or that shiny piece of new technology. I won't pretend the landscape isn’t fragmented or the number of devices in a household haven’t multiplied, but in a changing landscape the fundamentals stay the same," he said.

“As the custodian of our clients' brands and their media investment, it's important that we do not get drawn into taking sides. We need to ensure that we hold all publishers, content owners and technology companies to the same level of transparency and accountability and then have delivery independently verified.

“We need to make sure that the foundation media – traditional, digital, however we choose to categorise it, is in robust and rigorous health and that audience measurement provides both a currency and confidence that a brand's investment is well spent.”

Horgan also weaved in his passion for the age-old ad format of the television, saying he has confidence in the OzTam data that tells him “the best place to watch live TV is in my living room on the TV”.

“And now, thanks to the IAB and Nielsen, I have confidence that there is also millions of us watching Car Pool Karaoke on YouTube, mobiles and tablets.

“Tonight I call upon OzTam, the IAB and Nielsen to continue the significant progress made this year, to cut through the noise and offer advertisers the most rigorous and robust systems of measurement they can.”

Were you at Brandcast? What were your views? Email me or comment below. 

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