Digital Advertising Brand

Is digital media losing credibility with brands? The advertisers' view

By Mario Yiannacou | media and advertising manager

February 8, 2017 | 6 min read

It seems that digital media has been under a little more pressure than usual lately. While advertisers still spend a considerable amount of their marketing budgets in these channels, 2017 may be the year they take a little step back and reassess the value they are receiving, if indeed they can.

Due to the way digital is structured, everything should be accountable and reported upon but numerous reports have instead stated this is simply not the case. Starting with a complicated ‘ecosystem’, it is plagued by issues such as fraud, viewability, brand safety and even simple software errors relating to visual ad stacking.

Regardless of where advertisers advertise online, the most recent damning headline so far is that £600m was wasted by UK advertisers on non-viewable ads in 2016. Along with the fact that digital metrics aren’t living up to expectations, two of the biggest digital platforms, Facebook and Twitter, have admitted to having overestimated their videos views.

ISBA response

Bearing in mind that Cisco has stated that 80% of all the world’s internet traffic by 2019 will be video, this is of particular concern. Below is a snippet from Ogilvy’s 2017 trends report (slide 74). The Facebook issue around video metrics isn’t new but there are six other miscalculated metrics advertisers may not even be aware of, and what about the other 213?

(There are 213 other metrics by which Facebook can be measured, totalling 220 metrics).

facebook metrics

To add to Facebook’s concerns, P&G’s Marc Pritchard, chief brand officer of one of the world’s largest advertisers and an ISBA member, said the company took the targeting strategy too far. He said: “We targeted too much, and we went too narrow. And now we’re looking at: What is the best way to get the most reach but also the right precision?”

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P&G’s chief executive, David Taylor, further said: “Reach and frequency is needed, along with the right message. We have adjusted our communications to TV, digital and any way appropriate to reach consumers, that can make a big difference."

However, it’s not all doom and gloom. To both Facebook's and Twitter's credit, the video overestimation issue was admitted, with Twitter refunding advertisers (Facebook haven’t as of yet). There was also a lengthy apology from David Fischer, VP of business and marketing partnerships at Facebook. The pertinent part is that Facebook is finally giving marketers a choice by offering third-party video verification options with companies like Nielsen and Moat – a good step forward.

More recently, Facebook announced that that it would expand its partnerships with Nielsen and its mobile digital ad ratings and with ComScore to measure when ads were seen and by whom. Facebook is already using third-party firms such as Integral Ad Science and Moat. It has also just added DoubleVerify as a viewability partner.

The above news is coupled with what some commentators are calling the biggest marketing speech for 20 years, in which Pritchard laid into Google and Facebook’s ‘walled gardens’ and demanded transparency from the digital supply chain, with the hope of heralding a new era in digital advertising.

ISBA and namely Mark Finney, ISBA’s director of media, has supported the plan laid out by Pritchard, calling it a "bold initiative" with the issue of transparency being on the agenda at the upcoming ISBA conference. "We hope it will inspire more advertisers to follow, building irresistible pressure that will change our industry for the better. We will support it with all our strength," he added.

The ideal next step would be for Facebook and Google to become involved and collaborate with the likes of JICWEBS and UKCOM to ensure video metrics are meeting current standards.

Another positive development that could repair the trust between digital platforms and advertisers would be if Facebook, Google, Twitter et al were to integrate with Broadcasters’ Audience Research Board (BARB) which has been delivering the official viewing figures for UK television audiences since 1981. It’s a trusted source of audience information and supported by major UK broadcasters.

A great example of integration, or ‘spooning’ in this case, is despite a spat with Google last year, TV marketing body Thinkbox and Google not only made up but a collaboration produced some valuable insight via independent research from Binet and Field, see here. The overarching headline being that TV and online video are the dream team for advertisers.

So there you have it, a call from advertisers to make digital more accountable and measureable, and in turn it should become more trusted.

Mario Yiannacou is media and advertising manager at ISBA, which represents British advertisers

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