Ad industry moves towards creation of global regulator for internet ads

The World Federation of Advertisers (WFA) has proposed the creation of a global advertising watchdog that would regulate internet ads as a means of addressing the growth of ad blockers.

The global advertising trade group, which represents marketers at major brands who are responsible for around 90 per cent of global marketing spend, made the announcement in response to recent research looking at ad blocking on mobiles.

Ad blocking solutions company PageFair released a new study which found that there are at least 419 million people blocking ads on smartphones worldwide.

The WFA has responded to the findings by attributing the prevalence of ad blocking technology to consumers losing patients with online advertising and has called on better ads as a means of addressing the problem.

It proposes that all representative parties in the advertising chain — marketers, publishers, and ad tech companies — form a global coalition that would regulate ads.

The coalition will help technology partners to collect data on the kind of advertising consumers want to block. Unlike other studies which to to use survey data as a means of looking at which ads are blocked the WFA wants to actively monitor real user behavior to identify the type of formats and frequencies that people find annoying.

Commenting on the news of the proposal, Jed Hallam, head of digital strategy at Mindshare, said: “The WFA should be applauded for its proposed creation of a global advertising watchdog” but warned that there were “some gaps in its proposition which need to be addressed.

“Firstly, at the end of every ad is a human, so the interests of consumers need to be represented in order to cater to their needs and wants. Secondly distribution isn’t the only concern with online advertising – content also needs to be improved. People don’t block ads solely because they’re invasive or high frequency, they also block them because they are annoying and contain what they deem to be irrelevant content.”

Hallam added: “It’s also worth noting that there are a huge amount of businesses that are built on high frequency retargetting, such as Criteo and Outbrain for example, and this would fundamentally break their business model.”

A number hurdles will have to be overcome for the launch to be possible including differing opinions from all players in the ad chain as to what an acceptable format looks like and the plethora of varying laws in different countries surrounding areas like privacy and advertising vary wildly.

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