“The days of giving digital a pass are over – it’s time to grow up. It’s time for action.” These decisive words belong to Marc Pritchard, Chief Brand Officer of the world’s biggest advertiser Procter & Gamble, who, in his blistering speech at the IAB’s Annual Leadership Meeting one weekend ago, called for greater transparency and accountability from the digital advertising industry around media buying and viewability. Commentators have seen it as a turning point for digital, with Mark Ritson describing it as the “biggest marketing speech for 20 years”.
Whilst admitting that “P&G believed the myth that we could be a “first mover” on all of the latest shiny objects, despite the lack of standards and measurements and verification”, he asserted that there’s little to be gained from continuing to endorse a “complicated, non-transparent, inefficient and fraudulent media supply chain”. Instead, a clean, productive and transparent media supply chain is what all relevant industry bodies should be striving for.
Time to take the fight to the fraudsters?
Pritchard’s speech was made barely a month after the details of “the largest digital advertising scam in history” became public. A click-fraud machine, designed to mimic human web surfers, reportedly stole up to $5m daily from top advertisers and publishers. This, apparently, is just the tip of the iceberg. However, because of the way the online advertising market is structured, with several layers of middlemen and intermediaries, there is little incentive to stop it. Other commentators point out that, whilst some ad networks and ad buyers are aware that their traffic numbers are being distorted by bots, as long as they are getting paid by their clients they don’t really care.
Spotlight on programmatic and transparency
Marc Pritchard’s speech coincided with the release of a survey report from World Federation of Advertisers, according to which nearly 90% of the WFA’s members are reviewing their programmatic advertising contracts this year, and seeking transparency and control over how their ad budgets are spent. Their qualms are in line with those featured in the P&G’s chief marketer’s speech: the issues of ad fraud (use of bots to simulate human activity online), rebates (undisclosed funds in the form of rebates that agencies receive from media owners) and measurement (lack of accuracy and consistency).
This week also observed the publication of hot-off-the-press results from Nielsen, which saw Facebook video streaming figures plummet by 94% since the way in which they were measured was changed. Facebook currently co-operates with 24 global third party measurement partners and continues to integrate solutions to provide both transparency and verification – both are steps in the right direction as demands for accountability and transparency from brands like P&G are only set to grow.
P&G’s 4 point plan
In his speech, Marc Pritchard outlined 4 keys steps P&G is adopting to clean up the media supply chain in 2017. Number one is to require all suppliers to conform to one definition of viewability, namely, the Media Ratings Council Viewability Standard. Number two: implement MRC-accredited third-party measurement verification. Number three is to address the controversy of undisclosed rebates by making agency contracts transparent. Finally, P&G will prevent ad fraud by only dealing with entities certified by the Trustworthy Accountability Group as being fraud-free.
Understandably, the speech generated a lot of coverage, with some industry analysts concluding that it has signalled “the end of the early stage of digital advertising and the beginning of its maturity as the biggest single form of advertising in the world”.
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