New media agency group seeking to ‘protect journalism’ to drive value for advertisers



A newly-formed group comprised of media agency executives will work to establish what is and is not “premium content”, as it looks to play a role in making advertisers understand the importance of quality journalism.

The new group is an amalgam of two committees from the Interactive Advertising Bureau (IAB) which represents publishers and Media Federation of Australia (MFA), which represents media buyers, with the six month old IAB Agency Advisory Board merging with the MFA’s Interactive Committee in a move which aimed at cutting overlap.

The new merged group will be called the IAB-MFA Agency Advisory Group (IMAAG) and will be chaired by GroupM chief investment and intelligence officer Danny Bass who told Mumbrella the new body would establish a new code of conduct to help the fight against click fraud and ensure brand safety, and have a role in protecting journalism.

“There is also the question of what can we as an industry do to protect journalism,” said Bass.”That’s the thing I really want us to do on this board because if everything goes down the quick, snackable in and out news path then our opportunity to grow digital revenues, to work with clients on digital marketing spends will decrease.”

Challenged on whether it is the role of media agencies to protect journalism Bass argued they play an increasingly important role in convincing brands to pay a premium for certain websites.

“We acknowledge to run a newsroom is expensive, its very expensive to have investigative journalists etc. and that has to be funded by advertising as well,” said Bass. “It is important to us to ensure quality journalism still exists and creates compelling content that drives premium and quality websites because there is an interest for us and our clients as well.

“So the question is how can we as the conduit between the IAB board members and the clients work with them to identify what is genuine premium content and explain why that might be more expensive than cost per click, or cost per acquisition.”

The issue has been highlighted in recent months following Mumbrella’s coverage of the IAB decision not to allow viral content website Buzzfeed into the news rankings, a move which saw the organisation begin examining definitions around what content should be classified as news.

Bass said the issues around definitions along with brand safety would be two main focuses of the group.

“There are two things I want to achieve with this,” he said. “There is an operational goal around brand safety and one which is more around industry goal where if we have the media owners who come to us and talk about premium and say we are not a Buzzfeed, Mail Online, and we are this and this then we have to understand what does that actually mean.”

IAB CEO Alice Manners said the decision to merge the groups came about because it was recognised that they covered a lot of similar ground adding: “When I started at the IAB it was considered very much a publisher association. It’s nice to show the issues that the IAB has are similar to the issues the MFA does and if we put our industry hat on and look at the big tent we can come out with one voice.

“That doesn’t mean that there won’t be times when we perhaps have  some friction around things but it is about having a debate and representing the full industry.”

Manners also confirmed that the ongoing issue of brand safety, which has seen a number of major brands adverts appearing in places like illegal pirate TV websites, would also be a key focus with the group moving to establish a new code of conduct on brand safety covering the issues of traffic fraud, viewable impressions, ad verification.

“Danny was very clear about having one priority and one focus,” she said. “It goes to the issue of brand safety. That issue is so big and broad and breaking it down into three areas and establishing a code of conduct.”

Manners also clarified the Agency Advisory Group’s interest in premium content saying they would not set definitions but would give feedback, stating: “Where there is value it should be paid for, that comes with quality journalism, with quality websites and placements.”

“Obviously this (issue) is a concern for publishers and a concern for agencies as well and it comes from the growth and emergence of demand side platforms (DSP),” she said. “We as an industry get caught up in one thing or another DSP are fantastic from a cost efficiency perspective but it is not everything and it needs to be looked at contextually in the overall digital strategy. ”

The MFA’s Sophie Madden said the collaboration would achieve better outcomes.

“It make no sense for the IAB to have an agency advisory board and the MFA to have an interactive committee over here,” said Madden, CEO of the MFA.

“I’m a big one for collaboration and I felt very strongly that we will have greater chance of success, on stuff where we are aligned, if we partner and do it together.”

Nic Christensen 


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