A realistic approach to building transparency and trust

18 Dec 2018  |  Richard Foan 
A realistic approach to building transparency and trust

As he bids farewell to JICWEBS, chairman Richard Foan reflects on the trade body's progress so far - and where it's heading next

JICWEBS has achieved much in the pursuit of transparency and building trust in digital ad trading. As our CEO, Jules Kendrick, takes up her new role, the time seems right to look at what we’ve accomplished and how we can build on that.

It’s 20 years since the initial meeting of key media industry bodies which led to the formation of JICWEBS - the Joint Industry Committee for Web Standards. Today JICWEBS oversees the independent development of good practice and standards for digital ad trading in the UK and works to increase the transparency and trust in how digital advertising is bought, sold and placed.

Our efforts to reduce the risk of online fraud, to reduce discrepancies in ad viewability measurement, and to increase the probability of advertising appearing in safe brand environments, are gathering momentum - our successes and buy-ins are continuing to grow.

And throughout this work we’ve adhered to three broad principles - realism over idealism, transparency builds trust, and global standards for local markets.

We need to be realistic because ad fraud is a fact in all financial trading. There’s no point pretending that there are quick and easy fixes to overcome it, and I’ve always insisted we must be realistic about the pace at which we can achieve change.

Ad fraud can be reduced further - as an industry we must remain educated and informed so that we understand what is commercially important and technically manageable, rather than arbitrarily setting standards that sound ideal but don’t work.

The process of standards development at JICWEBS has always been approached with this realism and guided by cross industry practitioners.

That transparency builds trust is self-evident. The World Federation of Advertisers and others have also recognised this in initiatives such as their Manifesto for Online Transparency - this calls on brands to commit to a data ecosystem that properly respects consumer choices and the right of the consumer to control their own data.

Media adspend worldwide will be in the region of $630 billion in 2018, with digital accounting for about 50% of this total. In the UK, this percentage is 64% (all figures from eMarketer).

It’s unrealistic to think about digital ad trading in the UK in isolation: the industry is global, so any standards which allow self-regulation in the UK need also to align globally.

So where have we got to? There have undoubtedly been challenges but we’ve made significant headway in the last few years and JICWEBS standards are now recognised and well supported in the UK.

As of December 2018, over 130 organisations have opened themselves up to be independently verified and receive JICWEBS certification. They include both global and local UK players, from traditional and ‘new’ media, and agencies, intermediaries and media owners.

Our work received strong endorsement in April this year when the House of Lords Select Committee on Communications completed an enquiry into the UK advertising business - the Select Committee urged for better self-regulation from the industry and called for all major players to sign up with JICWEBS and to be transparent in their business practices.

Another milestone for JICWEBS in 2018 was when YouTube received their audited report on their brand safety efforts, a hugely positive step forward in our efforts to improve transparency.

For such a big player and influencer as Google to open the processes of one of its businesses to industry scrutiny and independent audit, was, I believe, a breakthrough for digital advertising.

The sign up by the UK national news and key magazine brands this year really has shown our industry coming together to support transparency.

Internationally, this year has also seen the development of the partnership between JICWEBS and the US-based Trustworthy Accountability Group (TAG), to align many of our key initiatives and create a consistent global approach.

JICWEBS anti-fraud programmes will merge into TAG’s Certified Against Fraud programme from January 2019 with independent audits mandatory for trading in the UK market.

We’ve also been working closely with the IFABC (International Federation of Audit Bureaux of Circulation) and the Media Rating Council (MRC) to look at how we can bring about further global consistency including signposting MRC accreditations on JICWEBS reports.

So, I’m delighted with the progress we’ve made so far, but mindful that there is still much that needs to be achieved. What’s next for JICWEBS?

Most importantly, our industry needs to drive the next level of accountability. To do this we must demonstrate how our standards are helping the industry to self-regulate and encourage more businesses to open themselves up to independent audit and certification. This will also encourage our government to support effective self-regulation.

We also will be looking for further international consolidation on standards and best practice.

To this end JICWEBS and TAG have already announced that the TAG IQG programme will be merged into JICWEBS Digital Trading Standards (DTSG) Brand Safety Guidelines so that JICWEBS’ DTSG become the primary set of brand safety standards in the two key markets.

I’m delighted that I’m able to hand much of this future development into the very capable hands of our new chief executive Jules Kendrick.

Come the new year, it is Jules (with our trade bodies and their members) who will be working with you all to ensure that digital advertising continues on a steady path towards an increasingly safe, trusted and transparent future.

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STUARTWILKINSON, Head of Industry Relations EMEA, Comscore on 19 Dec 2018
“Thank you, Richard, for your decades of dedication to building trust, best practices and bridges in and across our industry, both at home and abroad. A fine example set and a great legacy for many of us to continue. Fly safe.”
IanDowds, CEO, UKOM on 19 Dec 2018
“Great work Richard F, good luck in the future - you are leaving a strong and worthy organization in very capable hands with Jules Kendrick.”

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