The digital standard is changing for the better elsewhere – when will it here?

Overseas digital ad markets have moved forward in ways we haven’t as yet. So what’s next for Australia? Vicki Lyon poses the question.

In October last year, the UK ad tech market launched its Gold Standard pledge. Driven by the IAB, the pledge shows a unified commitment to improving digital advertising and reducing risks for clients. It now has 62 members on board including publishers, adtech platforms and the big global players Facebook, Google and Twitter. While this is terrific news for the UK market, it raises the question about where we are at in the Australian market.   

The UK’s Gold Standard has three key aims: to reduce ad fraud through the implementation of ads.txt, improve the experience for consumers through a range of standards from the Coalition of Better Ads and commit to best practice certification for brand safety with the Joint Industry Committee for Web Standards, UK and Ireland (JICWEBS).

That the program has gained traction is proof that Marc Pritchard’s speech at the start of 2017 has been taken seriously.

Here in Australia, the AMAA’s 2017 Trust Study confirmed that trust in digital advertising is lagging and that agencies and clients view industry solutions that provide certification to best practice – like those established in the UK and USA by JICWEBS and the Trustworthy Accountability Group (TAG) – as important initiatives in supporting a cleaner, better functioning digital ecosystem.

Trust in our digital ad trading marketplace is important. We have seen a number of examples of how waning trust can have a negative impact on the industry. Most notable last year was the withdrawal of advertisers from YouTube following brand safety concerns. One Wall Street investment firm estimated the boycott could cost Google as much as $750 million in lost revenue. Additionally, JP Morgan Chase Manhattan reduced the number of sites in its digital buy from 400,000 to 5,000 while other global advertisers reviewed and, in some cases, cut their digital spend.

The bottom line is that advertisers will only continue to spend in channels they know are safe and effective. As such, we need to ensure, as an industry, that our practices support a well-functioning digital ecosystem so marketers continue to commit their dollars.

It was for this reason that the AANA, MFA and IAB moved to establish a working group last year to develop an industry standard addressing digital trading issues with a focus on transparency, reducing fraud and improving brand safety. This is a solid start to moving towards elevating best practice in our market, but we need to do more.

Moving beyond an industry standard

While having standards in place is a great start, evidence in overseas markets points to the fact standards alone aren’t enough. These standards need to be policed. There are clear benefits in industry validation frameworks to ensure players commit to the rules. We not only need to build an industry standard that specifically suits our market, we also need to ensure we have a suitable approach that certifies the players to that standard. Only then can we create a trusted ecosystem that benefits everyone.

By establishing a standard and best practices for the digital trading environment, and then independently validating the parties trading to those standards, we can work together to minimise the incidence of ad fraud, build trust between media buyers and sellers and create a safer trading environment.

The benefits of an industry standard and validation

The beauty of having a robust and widely implemented industry standard which is also independently validated is that it will have a positive impact for marketers, publishers, agencies and adtech operators within the digital ecosystem. Marketers will have the confidence to spend on digital knowing they are in safe hands as they purchase inventory that is more likely to be seen by humans in brand safe environments. Less money will be lost to ad fraud or non-performing inventory and spend will reach legitimate publishers.

Taking these steps will give the legitimate players who step up and commit to operating according to these standards a chance to show they have business models that support a healthy ecosystem.

There are promising signs that we’re well on the path toward a better digital ecosystem. We’ve already seen success in ads.txt implementation, although there is some way to go. Likewise, the industry has shown an appetite for working together to improve the situation which is encouraging.

We all agree that we want a sustainable and thriving digital ecosystem, so let’s work together to make it happen.

Vicki Lyon is the chief digital officer for the Audited Media Association of Australia.


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