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Tim Elkington 

What next for digital advertising?

What next for digital advertising?

IAB UK's chief strategy officer, Tim Elkington, takes a look back over the past 12 months for digital advertising and discusses what's next for the £7bn industry.

Do you remember when anything digital was called 'new media'? Fortunately the media business has moved on from this language and we've reciprocated by dropping the rather derogatory 'old media'. Nonetheless, it would be wrong to imagine that the old hostilities to the new have similarly died out.

The new always threatens the old. The Industrial Revolution had as passionate detractors as the digital revolution; new movements bring new solutions but also new problems, giving ample ammunition to their detractors. But regardless of how keenly they are seized by the refuseniks, such complaints rarely change the outcome.

It's important that we do acknowledge that digital advertising has faced, and will continue to face, such challenges - for example, in the form of viewability and ad fraud.

However, it's equally important to emphasise that the digital advertising market isn't passively sitting back and ignoring these challenges. We're working together as an industry to tackle them proactively.

The real argument against those who feel compelled to criticise every available flaw in the digital story is that digital is not a zero sum competitor"

And we have a good track record for resolving issues with the buy side: for example, the UK is a world leader for brand safety online with Good Practice Principles agreed through the Digital Trading Standards Group (DTSG) and the Joint Industry Committee for Web Standards (JICWEBS) with ad trading companies audited through independent third parties.

Fraud is also being tackled and confronted head-on. Through JICWEBS a new fraud group consisting of representatives across the industry is being established in the UK to develop market guidance and standards to safeguard against and significantly minimise fraud.

This mirrors a similar initiative being spearheaded at IAB US, and we will be working collaboratively with them to ensure that we are taking a collective transatlantic approach to addressing fraud.

When it comes to viewability, through JICWEBS, the IAB UK has worked in partnership with other leading trade bodies including the IPA, ISBA and AOP to develop market guidelines for digital display, guaranteeing an 'opportunity to see'.

Building on this great work, standards for video advertising are to be released in the New Year giving further guidance to the market. There is still more work to be done but we are working together as an industry to continue to make digital the most measurable and accountable medium.

I started my career in media selling print advertising; and in print, the advertiser has no idea how many times their advertisement has been viewed. We know how many copies of the newspaper or magazine have been sold (thanks to ABC) and how many readers the title has (thanks to NRS) but we don't know how many readers opened a magazine at a particular page on a particular day, and even if they did open that page we don't know how many looked at the advertisement in the bottom right hand corner of the page.

Enders Analysis forecasts that digital advertising in the UK is set to hit £9.3bn in three years."

Likewise in television, BARB provides ratings based on a panel but doesn't account for actual views or ads missed for tea breaks. We all know this, but it hasn't stopped digital detractors believing they've found a killer punch. They haven't. They are merely highlighting how high the digital advertising industry is setting its own bar in terms of accountability.

But the real argument against those who feel compelled to criticise every available flaw in the digital story is that digital is not a zero sum competitor. It is the platform on which agile print, OOH and TV companies are building not just their survival, but also their future vitality.

So, having engaged in hand to hand combat with digital detractors in former years, the IAB is now directing its energies not to winning arguments, but finding solutions to the kind of new problems that are always thrown up by the new.

The latest Digital Advertising Spend report, compiled independently by PwC on behalf of the IAB, shows that online advertising spend increased by 16.6% on a like for like basis in H1 2014 compared to H1 2013. Within this display advertising was up 30.1% on a like for like basis.

Enders Analysis forecasts that digital advertising in the UK is set to hit £9.3bn in three years.

This level of investment is not accidental or because advertisers are on some kind of bandwagon. Digital display is a rich and diverse palette with a compelling range of solutions for brands as well as media owners.

Whether it's online video, large scale display formats such as home page take overs and billboards, or the new category of branded content/native/in-feed (which already accounts for over 20% of digital display) there's plenty to offer brands with a whole range of objectives.

Digital spend is growing because advertisers are coming back for more, so let's use our energies to solve problems and serve them even better

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Tim, Cain, AOP on 17 Dec 2014
“It is certainly a time of positive collaboration across the industry bodies for the good of the industry as a whole. The transparency of digital will always create a level of challenge above that of other media in proving accountability and return. The initiatives around ad fraud and viewability through the cross industry groups are significant in their ability to attract widespread support and response”
Doug Conely, Chief Strategy Officer & UK Managing Director, Exponential on 16 Dec 2014
“Tim, and the IAB, are right to point out that advertising is becoming increasingly digital. In the end, the term internet advertising itself may not be relevant as it is simply “advertising” and doesn't need the “internet” bit. In the meantime, there are lots of evolving business practices and industry challenges on which the IAB do a good job of bringing industry participants together and inviting others – like the IPA, regulators and consumers – to have a voice.”
Stuart Wilkinson, Head of Industry Relations, comScore on 16 Dec 2014
“Digital measurement has always been iterative by the nature of the medium. It’s complex, challenging and often messy – but it’s indicative of an industry that embraces advances in technology and actively deals with the challenges these advances bring. In confronting these challenges, the UK is at the forefront of setting accountability standards to bring further transparency to ad trading defined by JICWEBS, audited by ABC and supported by IAB. ABC’s recent viewability audit is a critical step in this process to show how vendors have different abilities in their measurement services with a transparent, direct audit approach that goes beyond self-reported results. As we shift to an increasingly programmatic trading environment, this transparency is becoming even more critical to build trust that advertising is not only in view, brand safe and fraud free but is reaching the right target audience. No matter what the medium, people are still, and always will be, at the core of advertising’s focus.”
Dominic Finney, Director, FaR Partners on 15 Dec 2014
“The challenge with developing new standards is that there's nothing to compare it to as it generally occurs in emerging markets and these are by there very nature are dynamic and prone to on-going change . The fallacy of comparing them to other media is that their industry standards have been tried, tested and refined over time which therefore makes comparison reductive. The key point is to establish principles and standards, no matter the disparity of views in a given market, as this gives the market a framework to build from and in this regard I think our industry bodies, in the long view, have a good record of delivering.”
Nigel Gwilliam, Consultant Head of Media & Emerging Technology, IPA on 15 Dec 2014
“A huge amount of cross industry work is going on to help internet-based media fullfil their potential. As Tim notes, the UK buy & sell sides have a proven track record of resolving challenges that arise from 'the new' and 2014 was probably our most successful year to date. Having helped found the DTSG and future-proof JICWEBS, on behalf of leading UK agencies, I look forward to working with the IAB and our other media trade association partners in 2015.”