Jicwebs' newly enlisted ex-ABC exec Richard Foan on how he plans to lead a 'joined up approach' to brand safety threat
The Joint Industry Committee for Web Standards (JICWEBS) is undergoing a transformation as it looks to promote brand safety and buying transparency, appointing former ABC executive Richard Foan to lead its efforts.
YouTube's brand safety procedures were thrust into the spotlight following a Times investigation earlier this year
The cross-industry body is to alter its current status as a part-time entity to a full-time operating limited company, having poached the former ABC executive director of communication and innovation.
The shift follows a series of high-profile scandals within the walls of Google and Facebook around viewability, brand safety and ad fraud as well as scathing comments from one of the industry's top marketers, Marc Pritchard, on the "murky at best, fraudulent at worst" media supply chain.
Foan has worked with Jicwebs since its inception, most recently serving as chairman of the industry-owned independent body, and will now take on the role of executive chairman after 33 years with media certification company ABC.
Former Microsoft executive, Susan Hansford, is also poised to join the initiative as a senior business development manager. Hansford will be responsible for supporting companies to sign up to the certification process for Jicwebs anti-fraud, brand safety and viewability schemes.
A recent IAB study found that digital ad spend in the UK increased by 17% in 2016 to reach £10.3bn, globally in 2017 it’s predicted the industry will grow by 13% to reach £163bn surpassing TV for the first time– figures which, according to Foan, mean marketers are paying more attention than ever before to the return their investment in the space is yielding.
He told The Drum that he will have a “clear single-minded” focus on building out Jicweb’s proposition over the coming months. So far, 37 companies have achieved Jicwebs certification for brand safety, with a further 23 adtech companies recently signing up to undergo audits.
Google's DoubleClick Ad Exchange is certified by the Jicwebs Digital Trading Standards Group, but other areas of the business, including YouTube, are not yet accredited.
While Google has taken steps to open up to more third-party measurement since it was rumbled by a report from the Times back in February which found unsavoury content being hosted adjacent to ads, as a whole the company is not officially subscribed to the Jic model. Speaking at an IPA event last month, a Google representative said one of the challenges it has with the embracing the model beyond DoubleClick is the lack of an international solution.
"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.
Foan hinted that alleviating concerns around this will be on his agenda, saying: "Jicwebs is on record for a number of years saying we want to focus on global standards relevant to local markets; what I mean by that is working with global players to deliver a joined up approach."
This, he says, is why the group is collaborating with the Trustworthy Accountability Group (TAG) in the US.
"We're in discussions with other groups like the World Federation of Advertisers (WFA)," he continued, although stressed that the focus will still be on delivering solutions for the UK market. "[We're] owned by the UK trade bodies so that’s what needs to be done."
Jicwebs' owners include the Association of Online Publishers (AOP), the Internet Advertising Bureau (IAB) and the Incorporated Society of British Advertisers (ISBA). It is further investment from these groups coupled with a rise in subscriptions that is allowing the cross-industry body to double down its efforts.
In terms of a timescale, Foan noted that for him this isn't a case of "everything needs to be in place at a certain point in time," but rather a move towards building standards "that everybody can use."
"We'll evolve those standards as the industry demands," he added. "I think the direction that we’re going in explains why I’ve decided to be more involved to put these resources in place and drive that consistency."