ISBA and IPA look to ‘galvanise’ advertisers with rallying cry for more data accountability

IPA and ISBA put out joint call to action

Advertising industry bodies ISBA and the IPA have united to issue a joint call to arms, urging the media industry to provide more accountable and accurate data to advertisers.

In a research paper released today (1 June), the two industry bodies laid out why marketers need credible data, the perceived barriers to achieving it and, crucially, what they should be asking of all their media suppliers.

Key questions the paper raises include: “who gathers the data?”; “how is it processed?”; “has the data been independently audited?”

More specifically, the duo urged the industry to uphold the following five standards:

  1. Ensure the audience data used for trading is based on metrics and methods that comply with agreed, open industry standards
  2. Insist those standards are upheld by independent auditing
  3. Hold proprietary data sets to the same level of accountability as industry-owned trading currencies
  4. Support the principles of the Joint Industry Currency (JIC) model as the best-in-class approach to providing objective and comparable audience data and metrics
  5. Encourage all media owners and platforms to engage with JICs, not to the exclusion of their own data sets, but to enhance their credibility with advertisers

“The industry has recently been reminded of the risks of trading without the guarantee of objective and independent measurement. There are promising signs that the walls around the digital platforms are coming down and that the more opaque parts of the digital world are being illuminated,” said Paul Bainsfair, director general, IPA.

“However, there is no room for complacency and there is still a lot of work to do. The principle of joint industry oversight of the research underpinning media is fundamental to confidence in advertising.”

While the two bodies were careful not to call out any specific media outfits, the publication of the paper comes against the backdrop of several high profile measurement mishaps involving Google and Facebook during the last 12 months.

“We want to engage with the online industry not slag it off,” said Richard Marks of media consultancy Research The Media, who presented the report.

The industry titans – who combined take some 70% of all digital media spend – have both been under increasing pressure to deliver more for advertisers. Google has been in the spotlight to be more transparent after an investigation by The Times into ad misplacement, while Facebook has been forced to admit several measurement errors relating to its video offering.

Google and Facebook react

Representatives from both were present at an event to launch the report, held at IPA’s headquarters in London, and quizzed by fellow attendees following the presentation.

While Google has taken steps to open up to more third-party measurement – it is not officially subscribed to the JIC model recommended by IPA and ISBA – it addressed complaints that it had been moving too slowly by saying it has been working to find a “global, not local” solution.

“One of the challenges we have with JICs is the international context. By no means is it a show-stopper, but the question we’re asking is: ‘is there a way of doing this on a global scale and is that something we should be thinking of?," said a representative.

"For international businesses, it’s easier to think in that framework. So, we’re trying to have conversations that will help us get to that on a global scale, not just in the UK or US."

Facebook, meanwhile said that it must ensure advertisers know what third-party partnership it has in place: “We have to do this on a bigger scale; we have to do more.”

However, Bob Wotton, former director of advertising and media at ISBA, suggested advertisers must take more serious action. He added: “If digital spend is going to go up by 20% year-on-year, what incentive is there for these media owners to actually fall in line? The advertisers have to really act with their money to achieve this.”

Earlier this year, the likes of M&S, HSBC, Nestle and Lloyds, all halted ad spend in wake of reports that their ads had been appearing next to videos from hate preachers, anti-semites and rape apologists on YouTube.

While the IPA and ISBA said they were looking to “galvanise” members into action with the report and recommendations, it stated that it can’t be found to be doing “anything that smacks of concerted action because there are serious competition laws.”

“All of our members have to make their own decisions based on the guidance they’re receiving, and models, and sources they’re receiving data from,” said Phil Smith, director general at ISBA.

The full report from ISBA and the IPA can be found and downloaded here.

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