2017 may well be a watershed year for digital advertising, with spend across all digital formats predicted to finally catch up to the budgets devoted to TV advertising. But just at the moment when digital publishers are earning newfound power, they find themselves facing a critical challenge. As Randall Rothenberg, president of the Interactive Advertising Bureau (IAB), explained at the organization’s annual Leadership Conference, “The supply chain by which digital advertising is created, delivered, measured, and optimized is so porous and perilous that it jeopardizes consumer trust and business growth.” In fact, this question of trust raised by Rothenberg is leading some major consumer brands to lay down a call to action for the digital advertising industry at large.
Marc Pritchard, chief brand officer for Procter & Gamble, which spends more than $2.8 billion annually on marketing, told attendees at the IAB conference that the current state of the industry’s digital supply chain is spurring his own company to demand changes in how they work with the digital ad industry. “The days of giving digital a pass are over,” said Pritchard. “It’s time to grow up. It’s time for action.” What does Pritchard think needs to be fixed? And how will the industry respond to his call to action?
As Pritchard explained, there are a number of areas where the advertising industry’s favorite publishers and media agencies simply aren’t doing enough to protect the interests of their clients. Perhaps most importantly is the issue of standardization. Too often, said Pritchard, publishers provide advertisers with varying standards for measuring campaign success around benchmarks like viewability and completed views. While advertisers have voiced frustration over these issues for some time, there seems to be a real sense of urgency now around settling on a single list of metrics. “Let’s pick a standard and stick with it,” said Pritchard.
On top of this, advertisers like P&G increasingly worry that digital publishers are not doing enough to comply with industry-established standards designed to safeguard against ad fraud. Currently, only some publishers are adhering to standards like the Media Rating Council (MRC)-accredited third-party verification. On top of this, advertisers are also asking suppliers to obtain accreditation by the Trustworthy Accountability Group (TAG). So far, not all publishers have done so. This is in addition to a lack of “automation” options that necessitate manual fraud checks for each campaign.
Getting the digital industry’s various partners to agree to these guidelines will be no easy task. But with the industry’s future growth riding on its ability to evolve, there’s no other choice but to adapt or face the consequences. In fact, there are signs that more digital publishers are already working to address some of Pritchard’s criticisms. Facebook, for example, announced just last week it was debuting better ad reporting tools for partners, in addition to new ad products that let advertisers buy based on new viewability standards like video ads that played with the sound on.
Digital advertising looks poised to experience a new “golden age,” with more spending and interest helping raise the fortunes of all the industry’s players. But without addressing some of the concerns echoed by industry heavyweights like Pritchard, this digital ad revolution may never reach its full potential. Expect to see some big changes coming this year as the top digital players rise to the challenge.