The world’s top brands – which just so happen to be the biggest online advertisers, too – have issued their biggest warning yet that “enough, is enough” when it comes to the “smoke and mirrors” of the digital marketing industry by threatening to pull their online spend unless agencies, ad tech firms and publishers finally overhaul current practices.
The World Federation of Advertisers – whose members include Unilever, P&G and Mastercard – has released a Global Media Charter which sets out eight clear principles designed to improve the digital marketing ecosystem.
The charter aims to tackle long-standing issues in transparency, brand safety, ad fraud, viewability, and consumer privacy, insisting that “the time for indulgence is over”. The WFA membership claims it will stop working with any company that does not comply.
WFA chief executive Stephan Loerke said: “The digital ecosystem has grown so rapidly, it’s no wonder that it’s far from perfect. But the time for indulgence is over. The largest chunk of the world’s marketing budgets is now invested in digital platforms and advertisers have a right to demand that the money they invest can be clearly tracked and understood.
“[But] it’s not just about knowing that budgets have been well spent. We also need to be reassured that brand and consumer interests are protected in these new platforms.”
The eight principles are:
1. Zero tolerance to ad fraud.
2. Strict brand safety protection.
3. Minimum viewability thresholds.
4. Transparency throughout the supply chain.
5. Third-party verification and measurement as a minimum requirement.
6. Removal of ‘walled garden’ issues.
7. Improving standards with data transparency.
8. Taking steps to improve the consumer experience to make ads less intrusive and disruptive.
RBS chief marketing offier David Wheldon added: “It’s high time the industry as a whole drew a line in the sand and said enough is enough; things need to change and fast. The WFA charter is critical in that it lists what brands need from their online partners so that the system can be sustainable. Put simply, it’s the only future for the online advertising ecosystem.”
The pressure has been mounting on the online industry to act for months – P&G slashed its digital ad budget by $200m last year and Unilever has also threatened a boycott – but the reality, so far at least, is that most large companies continue to up their online spend. At the last count, total digital adspend was predicted to rise to over $335bn by 2020.
One industry source said: “Could this be the moment when brands turn from being ‘all mouth, no trousers’ to finally demand change? Most talk a good game, but when push comes to shove, they keep piling in the money because they are too scared to lose ground to rivals. And let’s not forget, P&G’s total ad budget is over $7bn…so $200m is a drop in the ocean.”
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