What if we could start the digital advertising industry again from scratch?
At our recent U7 summit in London, industry experts and leading brands spent the day discussing issues like complicated supply chains, self-policing, a lack of global guidelines on transparency, and what we can do to course correct. And they’re not alone - lots of companies in the advertising space are working hard to clean up the ad landscape by bringing transparency and trust back to the industry. Initiatives like the U7, and trade bodies like the IAB and TAG, are starting to transform the dialogue.
But what if we could start afresh? What would our industry look like if we could start from scratch tomorrow? What technologies, processes and standards would we put in place from the get-go to ensure the industry remained transparent and trustworthy - while being as efficient and effective as possible?
A global standard
Firstly, we’d need an independent organization to create a global standard or a set of protocols that companies who participate in the exchange would need to adhere to.
An idea that often gets spoken about at Unruly is that of ID being a commodity rather than a USP. In our current ecosystem, only a few media giants own people based identifiers, and this means smaller companies struggle. In our new industry, I’d make ID available for all, giving the market a more level playing field and allowing companies to work across borders.
In order to succeed, it is necessary to put processes in place that encourage collaboration and unity. Rather than battling against each other, we should be looking at the overall picture and joining forces.
This is especially necessary for small independent companies — without teamwork, there’s no chance of competing against the walled gardens.
With companies having different standards for metrics like viewability and CTRs, implementing consistent measurement is a must. We’d need to launch with a set of standards in place for measurement from an independent governing body, much like the IAB is working towards in our current industry.
But should we be so heavily focussed on these metrics in the first place? In the new world I think we should be looking at real world outputs - with metrics like CTR being evaluated alongside shopper data for example. Brands could partner with shops to report in-store sales during campaign periods. A click does not mean a purchase - we need to tie campaign metrics to tangible outputs.
Overseeing the data flow
What about data? If there is one thing that’s essential to our industry it’s data. In our new world, I’d have it regulated much more than it is today, and would call for an independent body to oversee the flow and exchange of big data sets.
There would be a lot more second party data marketplaces in the future, where two first parties share their data. For example, BA and Hertz are two companies that are non-competitive — one knows about fliers and one knows about car hirers — but by simply exchanging data, they can start to build a more complete picture of their shared consumer.
In this new industry, direct data alliances between brands, publishers and advertisers should be encouraged and the benefits conveyed to all. This would eliminate the worry of murky or fraudulent data, as it would be coming directly from the source, as opposed to a shady third party.
The industry we have today is great — but it’s nowhere near perfect. Imagining the possibilities afforded by a clean slate encouraged the evaluation of what needs to be changed.
Encouraging collaboration and the sharing of data, being more transparent with our practices, re-evaluating how we measure success and looking at how we can make ID fairer are great places to start. And if others in the industry also step back and imagine a fresh start, perhaps these changes can begin to take place.