AOP launches 'Quality Charter' as first step in plan to raise the bar for online media

The terms of the charter form best practice recommendations for the AOP’s members

The Association for Online Publishing (AOP) has unveiled a ‘Quality Charter’ which outlines the trade body’s pledge to take the lead in eradicating industry wide issues like brand safety, viewability and ad fraud.

The charter will launch at the AOP’s Inside Out conference on Thursday (2 November) and for now encompasses guidelines for members. However, the AOP’s managing director, Richard Reeves, told The Drum that he hopes members will commit to the terms following further consultation.

Applying assessment and verification measures that provide higher quality media for advertisers and agencies, while delivering valuable experience for audiences, are the core tenets of the charter.

The move from the AOP bookends a year of brand marketers calling for greater transparency from platforms and publishers, most notably P&G's Marc Pritchard. The FMCG giant's top brass said at the start of the year that there was no sustainable advantage to publishers reporting with no verification, during his now famous call for the industry to clean up the "murky at worst, fraudulent at best supply chain."

The terms of the charter

The terms of the charter form best practice recommendations for the AOP’s members, which includes everyone from publishers like Conde Nast to suppliers like Google.

Following YouTube's misplacement furore at the start of the year, brand safety has become a major focus point for both publishers and marketers, with both groups saying the issue has increased in importance to the tune of 20% since 2014.

When it comes to brand safety AOP now recommends publishers should be verified through the Digital Trading Standards Group (DTSG). AOP says they should use accredited tools to screen 100% of impressions and deploy backlists and whitelists.

Additionally, it suggests they implement the Infringing Website List (IWL) from the City of London Intellectual Property Crime Unit (PIPCU), and offer rebates around any activity which is confirmed to have been misplaced.

To aid in the fight against the some $16.6bn lost ad fraud globally per-year, meanwhile, the charter recommends publishers use JICWEBS-verified anti-fraud tools, commit to 0% fraud as measured by third-party sources and bill only for human traffic, as well agreeing to be independently verified by AFGPP principles.

Finally, in terms of viewability, publishers should uphold the minimum Media Ratings Council (MRC) standards, deliver bespoke metrics for brands or agencies, and optimise in-page placement based on use behaviour.

When pressed on whether it would be difficult to impose the terms given that they are guidelines, rather than rules, Reeves was pragmatic: “What we’re trying to do here is not set a ridiculous standard that splits our community,” he said, “but one that all of our community are comfortable with.”

A sustainable future

The charter follows on from the Internet Advertising Bureau’s (IAB) recently unveiled ‘Gold Standard’ pledge which seen some of the biggest players in the industry promise to clean up the digital supply chain as part of a three-pronged attack to build a sustainable future for the industry.

While the two pledges are intended to appeal to different players in the ecosytem, another point of difference is the AOP's recommendation for platforms to collaborate with law enforcement; which the IAB has said is not the focus of its own pledge for now.

For Reeves, the AOP has helped move the needle via its established JICWEBS partnership, but to make the move to high-quality media more permanent the industry has to collaborate to create standards that go above and beyond minimum requirements.

“With this charter the AOP hopes to create a more sustainable, accountable, and reliable future for premium digital publishing,” he said. “If all members of the ecosystem can join forces, agree to ethical trading standards, and better media verification, there will be a real possibility of making this vision a reality and securing the long-term success of digital publishing.”

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Rebecca Stewart

Rebecca Stewart is a reporter at The Drum. Based in London, she writes news, analysis and features around brand marketing and digital innovation. She has interviewed key figures from the likes of Airbnb, Amnesty International, Unilever, Facebook and Spotify, as well as covering international events like Ad Week Europe, Dmexco and Ciclope.

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