In conversation with Merck & Co. Inc.'s Jennette Offenberg: BSI’s 2023 BSO-in-Residence

Posted by Brand Safety Institute • Feb 27, 2023 8:35:06 PM

BSI’s Brand Safety Officer-in-Residence provide guidance and leadership to BSI and the brand safety community on issues related to training and education; how to stand up and run impactful corporate brand safety programs; and safeguarding trust and safety in the media ecosystem.

For 2023 BSI has a new Brand Safety Officer-in-Residence, Jennette Offenberg of Merck. Jennette explores with CMO, Louis Jones, her thoughts on the role for BSI, her perspectives on being a BSO, and how BSI contributes to her brand safety practice at Merck in both a video one-on-one, and in a Q&A below.  Listen in, and read how Jennette is thinking about brand safety and the BSO role.

Offenberg is an experienced media professional in both the pharmaceutical industry and consumer packaged goods, concentrating in digital and social media, brand safety, and marketing. In addition to her role at Merck & Co. Inc., Jennette enjoys spending time with her husband and two kids as well as volunteering with two non-profit pet rescue organizations.

Louis Jones: Welcome to 2023! This, by all estimates, will be another intensive year for brand safety issues across the ecosystem. So, let’s talk about your readiness to face the issues in 2023 – it starts with having a plan! You have been complimentary of BSI in assisting you in formulate a brand safety Playbook for your company…. How has it worked? How have you coordinated internally to assure the right corporate level of involvement? And how have you socialized it within Merck? Is your Playbook evolving quickly? What advice do have for BSI about areas of improvement in Brand Safety Playbooks?

Jennette Offenberg: New year, more challenges as the ecosystem grows in options to connect with consumers. Our responsibility at Merck is to continue to refine our methods within in our brand safety practice, but to also be cognizant of new risks to practice and continue to add safeguards for our brands and consumers. It is a continuous effort.

At the end of 2021 we connected with BSI to share feedback on the Brand Safety Officer training and how we envisioned the training evolving into an updated Brand Safety Plan. It was an iterative process where we spent a good part of 2022 in collaboration with BSI and our media agency to develop a comprehensive brand safety plan. We needed to set up and agree to overall principles, in line with Merck’s values, and then organize processes and pathways to solve for brand safety risks/threats. The brand safety plan continues to evolve based on feedback we receive from stakeholders within the organization, however overall, the brand safety plan has been an integral part of how we communicate important information within our organization. Importantly, because we took brand safety on as a corporate mission, our stakeholders are all in – and they each know their role in decision-making and resolution. I initiate and coordinate our responses, but brand safety has visibility at all levels at Merck. The best advice I have is to keep the brand safety plan flexible and simple, as you may need to use it on a regular basis as the digital landscape is evolving so quickly.

Louis Jones: As BSI gears up to create more active dialogue around issues as they arise across marketers, agencies, publishers/platforms, and safety solutions, your role as BSO in Residence will have a critical impact on how the upcoming Leadership & Learning Council will think about the BSO and Brand Safe Workforce Certifications. Do you have any early thoughts about how training should evolve and future critical needs of these curriculums?

Jennette Offenberg: Within the context of an ever-changing landscape, our industry BSO’s and companies will necessarily have to step up to new challenges, we will require a bit of upskilling as these challenges arise. This is a real opportunity for BSI and real value for the ecosystem. My recommendation would be to offer training modules on a yearly basis for participants to maintain BSO certification; the courses offered can include some refresher brand safety information and should include new and specific training and education that includes both paid and organic media. It would be extremely beneficial to offer supplemental trainings on key digital areas like Privacy & Consent, or DEI, that touch and impact other areas of the organization/stakeholders as things change and evolve so quickly.

Louis Jones: I know you have discussed the idea of having “Office Hours” - a way to jump on hot brand safety issues - like the Marketer Roundtable where we recently had a discussion about how marketers felt about pausing Twitter. How do you see “Office Hours” working as a Community concept, and what do you see as the benefit to the Community?

Jennette Offenberg: I love the idea of Office Hours! This space moves so fast and many of the issues rise so suddenly – it is invaluable to be able have an ad hoc forum to share perspectives, and potentially actions taken by your peers, in a safe space where some of your burning questions can get answered. Additionally, it is an opportunity to broaden your perspectives and knowledge as practitioners, as different sectors may look at the same problem in a very different light. Participants could submit their “burning questions” ahead of the meeting to get everyone’s minds focused on the topic/issue for discussion, providing a more efficient and fruitful conversation. I see the Office Hours also as a tangible benefit to keep the BSO Community connected, strong, and making an industry impact. Forewarned is forearmed.

Louis Jones: Finally, what advice or encouragement might you give to other marketers, and constituents in the ecosystem about the role of the BSO? And please share your thoughts on how BSI can play a part in guiding day to day operations to improve the ecosystem for brands and people alike?

Jennette Offenberg: To my fellow BSO’s, I say stay positive and diligent as the digital media space seemingly changes overnight! We are trying to manage our supply chain, match our values with inventory choices, and help our companies maximize our communications opportunities with consumers in ways that are not offensive – no easy task. There a so many moving pieces and layers of information/investigation to sort through to make informed decisions. You won’t always get it 100% right – but you must keep pushing the envelope. As I said earlier, I recommend keeping Brand Safety Plans simple. Set them up as a WIP so they can be revisited as needed, and you can continue to improve them and make them more effective. BSI’s part is to continue providing on-going training in brand safety and provide forums like this for marketers and others, to collaborate, continue to learn, and strategize on how to keep brands and consumers safe.

Topics: Brand Safety Officers, Privacy, Brand Safety Officer in Residence, Role of the Brand Safety Officer, best practices, DEI