IPA demands duopoly takes ‘urgent’ action to solve online ad problems in frank letter to UK bosses

IPA demands more action from Facebook and Google

The director general of the IPA has penned a frank letter to the UK bosses of Google and Facebook, urging them to take “urgent” action in addressing problems of brand safety, measurement and viewability of online video.

Writing to Ronan Harris, managing director UK and Ireland at Google, and Steve Hatch, Facebook’s managing director for Northern Europe, the Institute of Practitioners in Advertising's (IPA) director general Paul Bainsfair formally called upon the duopoly to deliver “global gold standards" in online advertising verification and cross platform video advertising audience measurement.

"[...] in our judgement, urgent action is needed to bring the safety, measurement and viewability of your online video up to acceptable industry standards," Bainsfair said in the letter. "I cannot emphasis enough, the importance of this request."

The industry titans – who combined take some 70% of all digital media spend –have been under increasing pressure to deliver more for advertisers. In recent months, Google has been in the spotlight after an investigation by The Times into ad misplacement which saw a number of advertisers pause spend, while Facebook has admitted several measurement errors relating to its video offering.

Meanwhile, the world’s largest advertiser Procter & Gamble attacked the “murky at best, fraudulent at worst” media supply chain that both are so engrained in and has been joined by fellow ad giant Unilever in revaluating on digital spend.

In response, the IPA joined forced with ISBA earlier this year in an effort to get the media industry to provide more accountable and accurate data to advertisers. At the time, the two bodies were careful not to call out Google and Facebook, saying it wanted to “engage with the online industry not slag it off.”

However, the IPA’s Bainsfair said in a statement today (14 August) that “whilst we acknowledge that small steps towards addressing recent concerns have been taken, our advertisers and agencies are increasingly telling us that this progress is neither fast, nor significant, enough.”

Bainsfair went on to outline three “urgent action points” on brand safety, measurement and viewability.

On the first, Bainsfair asked that Google-owned YouTube and Facebook become signatories to the DTSG Good Practice Principles, which would mean independent verification of their brand safety policies and processes within the next six months.

He went on to ask that the pair also work with the IPA to “meet standards of independent, industry-owned audience measurement, which will enable cross-platform video audience measurement in the UK”.

And finally, on video viewability, he suggested YouTube and Facebook use the UK as a test bed for delivering online and mobile video ad supply that is optimised for 100% viewability and which can be independently verified.

“As the two biggest online video suppliers, YouTube and Facebook have a responsibility to ensure the best possible standards for advertising on their platforms,” said Bainsfair in a separate statement.

Responding to the letter, a Facebook spokesperson said: “We are already engaged in a constructive dialogue with the IPA and its members on these important topics. We take our commitment to advertisers seriously, and through continued investment and innovation we're making progress, together with our partners in the industry.

“In the last few months we've announced an extra 3,000 content reviewers to nearly double our existing team, as well as new buying options and controls for advertisers that give choice and transparency over how and where ads appear on the platform. We have also updated our metrics to give more clarity and confidence about the insights we provide, including our work with 24 third-party measurement partners who can verify the value we drive for advertisers.”

Google declined to comment but has taken several steps to open up to more third-party measurement – although it is not officially subscribed to the JIC model recommended by IPA and ISBA. On brand safety, it has invested heavily in artificial intelligence to better identify suspect videos at scale and is thought to be issuing more robust ad filters to marketers in the coming months.

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