World’s biggest advertisers crack down on transparency, ad fraud and brand safety

Who invented contracts? Some ancient Greek perhaps who should be the patron saint of lawyers despite his heathen ways.

New research from the World Federation of Advertisers (WFA), which represents most big advertisers, show they’re busily rewriting contracts with their media agencies and other suppliers in the wake of, first, the US ANA reprt into “media transparency” and, secondly, the brand safety storm of dodgy-to-offensive ads popping up on YouTube and the like.

According to the WFA in the last 12 months, 35 multinational companies with a total annual marketing spend of more than $30bn globally are taking back a significant degree of control from their media agencies.

More active management of media issues now involves brand safety, viewability and ad fraud as well as the transparency issues raised by the ANA report from K2 and Ebiquity.

Transparency remains the No 1 priority for 47 per cent of those questioned and although 51 per cent say this is rising up the priority list, 14 per cent feel this it is de-escalating, suggesting that some are seeing progress. Brand safety, the No 2 priority is moving up the agenda fast, with 70 per cent saying it has escalated as an issue in the last 12 months.

On transparency, 65 per cent have improved their internal capabilities via moves such as hiring a head of programmatic. More than 70 per cent have amended their media agency contracts and 58 per cent have included terms that define agency status as agent or principle at law.

On ad fraud, many are also taking actions as recommended in WFA’s Ad Fraud compendium: 55 per cent now limiting run of exchange buys; 43 per cent are shifting away from using CPM as their key metric in favour of business outcomes and 40 per cent are developing in-house resource to help tackle ad fraud.

On viewability, 63 per cent are now only investing in viewable impressions which meet industry standards and 37 per cent have devised their own viewability criteria.

On brand safety, 74 per cent have suspended investment in ad networks where they felt there was an unnecessary risk to their brands and a further 14 per cent plan to do so. 89 per cent currently limit or plan to limit investment in ad networks that do not allow use of third-party verification.

WFA head of marketing services Robert Dreblow says: “The WFA has long championed the need for clear and transparent relationships between brands and their agency partners. Last year’s ANA report was a catalyst for a new wave of action by brands not just in the US but around the world, addressing many of the media issues that our members have highlighted including brand safety and ad fraud.

“These actions, coupled with an increasing number of WFA members sharing that they have witnessed improved transparency, are positive signs that we can create an improved media landscape for brands, agency partners and media owners.”

Indeed it might and much of this is long overdue. It will, though, make life harder and (in some cases) less profitable for media agencies. This is reflected in the 2017 results from the big ad-based holding companies.

As for media owners it may provide a glimmer of hope that advertisers and agencies will place more of a premium on reputable sites although quite how this can be managed in a tidal rush to programmatic remains to be explained.

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About Stephen Foster

Stephen is a former editor of Marketing Week and London Evening Standard advertising columnist. He wrote City Republic for Brand Republic and is a partner in communications consultancy The Editorial Partnership.
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