It's time to give digital a break
Digital advertising has been taking some serious flak recently - it's about time we remembered the positives, writes Tim Elkington
It seems that this season's must-have accessory is a large hammer or similar device that you can use to bash digital advertising - something that really has become many people's favourite hobby.
What saddens me most about this is the relish and delight that some quarters of the advertising industry are taking in this. The digital bashers seem to forget that essentially we're all one big industry and are in this together.
I'm the first to admit that digital advertising does currently face a range of challenges - from ad fraud to brand safety to ad blocking - but we shouldn't forget that ad avoidance is common to all media. People avoid TV ads using the fast forward button or avoid print ads by just turning the page to the next article.
Working together to fix it
What's important about these challenges is that we're tackling them, as an industry, on a collaborative basis, with other organisations like the IPA, AOP and ISBA and through initiatives like IAB Believes.
We're also over-hauling the entire digital advertising format eco-system based on the LEAN (Light file size, Encrypted, Ad Choices enabled and Non-invasive) principles to give users a better online experience.
Despite what others might think about the sad fate of data, I'm positive and enthusiastic about the state of data in UK digital advertising.
Firstly, we have an industry standard for audience measurement provided by UKOM, which has cross industry representation from the IAB and AOP (as owners) and IPA and ISBA (as Executive Board advisors) along with dedicated full-time staff and cross industry representation on both its Technical and Commercial Boards.
The flexible UKOM model allows for the development, as required, of platform and audience measurement under a level of governance through which the industry holds its data (currently produced by UKOM's exclusive supplier comScore) to a high level of account.
Secondly, when it comes to data, I'm convinced that the hard yards that we're putting in with fellow trade bodies through JICWEBS and ABC, in terms of viewability, ad-fraud and brand safety, to ensure a safe supply chain will allow marketers to take advantage of what will be both the most personalised and the most accountable medium.
The numbers don't lie
When faced with an overwhelming amount of digital bashing it's easy to forget that digital advertising is such a great medium for advertisers. The numbers speak for themselves and the examples below are just from the studies that the IAB has done and don't begin to draw on the hundreds of examples that could be provided by our members.
As well as an increase in spend we also know that digital provides advertisers with great returns"
The IAB/PwC Adspend figures show that digital advertising is growing at its fastest rate for seven years, up 16.4% year-on-year. Within this, there are hot spots of growth that reflect consumer trends, such as mobile which is up 60% year-on-year and mobile video, which almost doubled.
As well as an increase in spend we also know that digital provides advertisers with great returns. For example, PwC calculated that affiliate and lead generation advertising offers an ROI of £13 for every £1 spent and generated £17.7 billion in sales for brands in 2015.
Research by Creston Insight into the social media activity of three brands - Heinz Baked Beans, Kettle Chips and Twinings Tea, showed that brands can increase spend by engaging with customers via social media and that every £1 spent in this area generated £3.34 in additional sales.
More recently, GfK's research into video formats showed the returns that video advertising offered for Sky Store and Sony Experia and demonstrated how video advertising across different digital devices worked together to provide the best results.
For example, seeing a video pre-roll and in-banner ad for Sky Store led to a 30 percentage point increase in product favourability.
Working together is another key strength of digital. For example, the IAB's "Mobile, Tablets and Other Media" research showed how well mobile works with other media - 25% of respondents saying they had used their mobile to find out more information after seeing an outdoor ad.
Finally and most importantly, let's not forget the fantastic and creative ways that digital allows brands to reach and to amaze their customers. Just take a look at the work highlighted recently at Cannes from the Sydney Opera House campaign, which encouraged visitors to come inside the opera house to DigitasLBi's work to highlight air pollution in London through the Pigeon Air Patrol.
My message to the digital bashers? Don't take delight in highlighting the challenges we're facing, but rather work with us and the other stakeholders in the digital ecosystem to make the industry better.
Then, please remember that we're all in this together; and finally - don't forget why digital advertising is here in the first place - it's a fantastically creative and personalised medium that offers advertisers great returns.
Tim Elkington is chief strategy officer at IAB UK