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Making Responsible Media A Reality: Kirk McDonald, Adam Gerhart and Marla Kaplowitz Put It in Focus

These days, just acting in your own interests isn’t enough.

Companies are compelled to take a positive stance on a range of outward issues – but often find that benefits nevertheless flow back in.

As part of the Global Forum on Responsible Media produced by Beet.TV, advertising agency executives discussed what they are doing on that front:

  • GroupM North America CEO Kirk McDonald
  • 4As president and CEO Marla Kaplowitz
  • Mindshare global CEO Adam Gerhart

From singular safety to multi-responsibility

“When we used to think about things like responsible media, we used to go straight to brand safety,” said Mindshare global CEO Adam Gerhart.

“But, more and more, the definition and the view of responsible media and the obligation that we have to consumers in the world is becoming much more progressive and much more encompassing.”

He said he is most excited about the “depth” represented by a responsible stance. Gerhart cites data ethics and privacy, media plan practices, carbon neutrality, journalism and minority communities.

“(We can make) carbon-neutral media plans that encourage media partners and owners to offset their own activities,” Gerhart said. “We are now creating things like a series of inclusion PMPs (private marketplaces) which is directly aimed at putting money back into the hands of underrepresented voices. It started with LGBTQ community, has moved into black communities, and now we’re doing the same from a responsible journalism perspective.”

Having a point of view

For 4As president and CEO Marla Kaplowitz, responsible media is “not something anyone should take lightly”.

“We actually launched media responsibility principles last September, building on the work of our advertiser protection bureau focused on brand safety and brand suitability,” she said. “It was about taking action to really put a point of view out there and say what does this mean in terms of promoting respect, making sure that we’re addressing hate speech?” The principles cover 10 areas.

“Words only go so far. Actions go the distance,” Kaplowitz adds. “We’ve seen some brands, some agencies, do that, but now I’m really seeing a collective focus on this. We still have a lot of work to do with misinformation and disinformation.”

Lead by following

GroupM North America CEO Kirk McDonald says brands and agencies should respond to what consumers are saying. His responsibility commitment covers five areas.

The first is authenticity, something McDonald says the pandemic has shown the importance of. “Your brand had better be authentic and it better be able to live in the moment and react and move in the moment,” he said.

Other commitments for GroupM include a “data ethics complex“, sustainability, brand safety and diversity and inclusion.

“In dynamic, profound, changing times, the partners that truly are living evolve or die realise that if you don’t dynamically change, you won’t keep up,” McDonald added. “The bold are going to actually have this proportionate outsized wins as a result of actually living their promises to their clients, their guests, their consumers.”

This video is part of the Global Forum on Responsible Media produced by Beet.TV, GroupM with the 4A’s. The entire Forum can be watched on-demand here, and all videos from this project can be found here.