Last week, Procter and Gamble’s chief brand officer Marc Pritchard announced that the company would no longer be accepting anything less than 100% transparency from its suppliers.
It has been referred to as one of the most important statements made in the advertising industry in decades. As a result other big brands, including O2, have jumped on the bandwagon. In order to achieve 100% transparency, P&G will adopt the standards of the Media Ratings Council (MRC), implement third-party verification and create transparency contracts.
While ad tech companies have been talking about these issues for years, it seems that brands have only recently joined the debate and are now acting accordingly. But, what significance does this announcement have on the industry? And will it be the point where brands, agencies and tech companies are forced to make the move?
Ally Stuart, strategy director at native advertising SSP Sharethrough: "There has been an increase in pressure on agencies and ad tech companies to be able to provide brands with transparency on where their ads are seen and where they end up. The latest P&G announcement - where they are holding their suppliers responsible for industry issues such as viewability and ad fraud - is by no means unique.
"For native, where the ad is placed into a feed of content on a publisher's site, it's crucial that people are able to view the ad. If they can't read the headline then there's no value to a brand. At Sharethrough we've traded on a 100% viewable metric for the best part of three years (using a 3rd party, Moat, for verification). The ability to guarantee viewability with native reassures brands that the investment they have made in both the creative format and the ad placement will produce great results. This market is expected to grow in 2017, and should help to attract brand spend back onto the open web. With brands, such as P&G, holding their suppliers to higher standards on key issues such as viewability, we should see an increase in ad tech companies and agencies making the move towards complete transparency."
Henrik Busch, co-founder of Blackwood Seven: "This announcement highlights a greater need to replace outdated technology and use innovative new tools to transform the media supply chain into one that operates transparently, and most importantly, affords marketers the truth. Artificial Intelligence is the key to this as it is impartial, and gives brands something they’ve wanted for years - greater control over their media investments. Providing we input the right data, this kind of machine learning will be the industry’s best response to P&G’s calls for greater transparency, as it ensures no bias interest with a process that can only find the most appropriate media mix and can only advise on the best media buys. It’s seamless, impartial and efficient and we expect to see more marketers demanding it this year."
Gavin Stirrat, managing director at Voluum: "As we continue to see more partnerships between anti-fraud specialists and supply platforms, we will start to see brands having a greater understanding of ad fraud. The industry has been reactive to the issue with the Media Ratings Council (MRC) launching its viewability standard in the US and the UK’s trade body initiative JICWEBS focusing increasingly on the issues.
"However, it is a positive for our industry to see brands such as P&G holding their suppliers to such high standards, as all parts of the supply chain will have to work together to try to address transparency in online advertising."
Paul Carolan, MD UK, Widespace: "A brand such as P&G taking a stand against inaccurate and opaque media practices should be a wakeup call for the industry. The methodology around measuring and reporting against key issues such as viewability, for example, is ultimately flawed. There are limited mobile-specific guidelines, leaving existing standards not fit for purpose and way off the mark of where they should be. The fact alone that smartphone ads are treated the same as desktop ads is worrying, as everything from the screen size to the need state of the consumer are totally different. This leaves it down to companies such as ourselves to develop our own robust methodologies to deliver accurate reporting, while others manipulate these inaccurate standards to their own ends.
"There are also big issues surrounding fraud, leaving brands like P&G unaware of whether the ads they are paying for are actually being served to real people. It’s something that we've been doing a lot to combat to the point where we now guarantee 0% fraud. This is entirely possible to achieve but isn’t happening industry-wide because there are businesses out there making money out of low quality or fraudulent inventory. What this boils down to is an issue of trust. It’s in the industry’s best interest to clean up and become more transparent, or risk undermining the success of those business committed to delivering results for brands."