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IPA issues formal letter to Google and Facebook to improve standards

14 Aug 2017  |  Ellen Hammett 
IPA issues formal letter to Google and Facebook to improve standards

The body that represents UK ad agencies has formally called upon Google and Facebook to bring the brand safety, measurement and viewability of their online video up to acceptable industry standards.

In a letter to the digital duopoly, IPA director general Paul Bainsfair outlined three urgent action points required to enable the delivery of global standards in online advertising.

1) Brand safety: Google's YouTube and Facebook to become signatories to the DTSG Good Practice Principles, which will entail the independent verification of their brand safety policies and processes within six months.

2) Video audience measurement: YouTube and Facebook to meet standards of independent, industry-owned audience measurement, which will enable cross-platform video audience measurement in the UK.

3: Video viewability: YouTube and Facebook to use the UK as a test bed for delivering online and mobile video ad supply that is optimised for 100% viewability and which can be independently verified.

Following a spate of high profile measurement blunders that have undermined trust in online advertising, both the IPA and ISBA - the voice of British advertisers - have already demanded that the media industry only uses objective and independently verified data before making buying decisions.

In June they launched a paper asking for all parts of the industry to defend accountable audience data and to uphold the highest industry standards of methodology and independent verification.

The document - titled A Matter of Fact - also lays out the reasons why the industry needs credible data, and the perceived barriers to achieving it.

Commenting on Monday's announcement (14 August), Bainsfair said: “The internet has evolved into a complex ecosystem, fuelled by mobile. Online budgets have exploded from around 16% of total spend (2007) to over 40% today, and online video has now established itself as an effective brand building format alongside television advertising.

“As the two biggest online video suppliers, YouTube and Facebook have a responsibility to ensure the best possible standards for advertising on their platforms.

“Whilst we acknowledge that small steps towards addressing recent concerns have been taken, our advertisers and agencies are increasingly telling us that this progress is neither fast, nor significant, enough.

“We believe it is incumbent upon the key players in this sector, therefore, to show real commitment to finding solutions to these problems.”

Responding to the letter, a Facebook spokesperson said: “We are already engaged in a constructive dialogue with the IPA and its members on these important topics. We take our commitment to advertisers seriously, and through continued investment and innovation we're making progress, together with our partners in the industry.

"In the last few months we've announced an extra 3,000 content reviewers to nearly double our existing team, as well as new buying options and controls for advertisers that give choice and transparency over how and where ads appear on the platform. We have also updated our metrics to give more clarity and confidence about the insights we provide, including our work with 24 third-party measurement partners who can verify the value we drive for advertisers.”

There is growing pressure on businesses like Facebook and Google - who between them control more than 20% of global adspend - to offer advertisers a more robust and transparent understanding of their proprietary data - which essentially means finding a way to match the 'gold standard' of a Joint Industry Currency (JIC), which the UK has long used to reliably trade traditional media.

In the last 18 months there have been multiple admissions from Facebook that it has miscalculated video views while 'marking its own homework'; ad fraud has blossomed into a multi-billion dollar business; The Times has dedicated a front page to issues of online brand safety; and one of the world's biggest advertisers, P&G, has called for an almost total reform of how it advertises online - with a direct challenge to only use data that can be independently verified.

However, as Mediatel has previously reported, both Google and Facebook have changed their attitudes since these revelations and some industry experts see a new era of collaboration blossoming - but there is industry-wide recognition that there is still much left to accomplish.

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NickDrew, CEO, Fuse Insights on 14 Aug 2017
“Mediatel's shorthand of "duopoly" when talking about digital, Google or Facebook rather belies a closed-minded, protectionist view of the media landscape, and starts to wear a bit thin. I'm no fan of large, anti-competitive or oligopolistic organisations in any sector, and I generally find Newsline articles to be informative and insightful, but on anything approaching digital media, this kneejerk view that "Google/ Facebook is bad, mmm'kay?" really isn't as good as considered discussion or well-reasoned thinking.”