Davos: world’s biggest brands launch internet policing plan

A new bit of harmful content reached consumers every second on YouTube, Facebook and Instagram between July and September 2019 – 9.2 million examples in total – and that’s despite the platforms removing 620 million pieces before anyone got a chance to see them.

Fed up with seeing their brands undermined by dodgy ads online, the World Federation of Advertisers has taken matters into its own hands by forming GARM, a group that brings together brands, agencies and platforms to co-operate on policing the internet and stop advertising dollars falling into the hands of offenders.

The Global Alliance for Responsible Media launched in June and today at Davos it announces a three-point action plan: to agree on a clear definition of harmful content; to develop tools to categorise content and steer adspend towards safer environments; and to establish an independent measurement system to check progress in banishing harmful content.

The long list of 39 advertisers on board includes Adidas, Diageo, Fiat Chrysler, Mars, PepsiCo, Sony, Unilever, LVMH and MasterCard. The top six agencies – WPP, Havas, IPA, Publicis, Omnicom and Dentsu – have also committed media experts to the project; while Facebook, Google (with YouTube) and Twitter lead the platform charge.

That’s an awful lot of people who need to agree, so no wonder it’s taken six months to decide on what to do next. Let’s hope the plan is eventually converted to action.

There’s a tangible sense that the era of rampant big tech is very slowly drawing to a close. The OECD is co-ordinating plans for a global two per cent sales tax; the UK Information Commissioner’s new proposals on radically limiting data collection from kids are expected to become law next year; and The Guardian’s dramatic revelation that a WhatsApp message from the Saudi crown prince was used to hack Jeff Bezos’s phone is another stark reminder of user vulnerability online.

Marc Pritchard, chief brand officer at P&G, is a leading member of GARM. He said: “It’s time to create a responsible media supply chain that is built for the year 2030—one that operates in a way that is safe, efficient, transparent, accountable, and properly moderated for everyone involved, especially for the consumers we serve. We can and should avoid the pitfalls of the past and chart a course for a responsible future.”

Stephan Loerke, WFA CEO, said: “Advertisers can play a unique role in improving the digital ecosystem and ensure society gets the benefits of connectivity without the downsides that have sadly also emerged. I’m delighted that the WFA has played such a key role in corralling the different actors of the digital ecosystem behind such a compelling common action plan.”

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About Emma Hall

Emma Hall
Emma Hall is the former Europe Editor of Ad Age, where she covered European marketing advertising, digital and media stories. She has written for newspapers including the Financial Times, The Guardian, The Times and the Telegraph, and was previously a section editor at Campaign. Emma started her career in New York as a researcher for a biography of Keith Richards.