AANA, IAB and MFA chiefs detail first cross-industry digital advertising practices

Trio of associations talk to CMO about joining forces on the new Australian Digital Advertising Practices launched this week

The AANA, IAB and MFA are positioning their first joint, cross-industry digital advertising practices as a way to restore trust and drive up credibility across the ecosystem of supplier, advertisers, publishers and technology providers.

The trio of associations have joined forces on what is being positioned as a first in collaborative working aimed at improving knowledge around the digital advertising supply chain.

The Australian Digital Advertising Practices were developed via a working team including advertisers, media agencies and publishers, along with subject matter experts, and underwent industry consultation for months before being released this week.

Five key areas are covered in the first instance: Digital transparency, viewability, brand safety, ad fraud and data transparency. Underlying the practices are five principles: Championing the customer experience; educate to inspire change; shared ownership and responsibility; every value chain is unique; and fair value for outcomes delivered.

The ambition with the practices, which attempt to position issues in straightforward language and include checklists as well as links to specialist sources, is to provide a practical guide the industry can use to improve digital advertising engagement and ultimately, rebuild trust across the ecosystem.

For example, the digital transparency checklist includes pointers such as understanding the technology currently in place, the value of the digital set-up, examining media buying objectives, weighing up the pros and cons of programmatic advertising, and choosing metrics to track outcomes.

 “As a former CMO, I’ve been frustrated with the presence of a number of issues within the digital ecosystem and the lack of progress… as an industry to resolve many of them,” Australian Association of National Advertisers (AANA) chief, John Broome, told CMO. “There had been a few siloed attempts but nothing consistent.

“The answer came as I switched to an industry association and realised that through the AANA representing advertisers, the MFA representing media and the IAB representing publishers, we have a unique ability to cover off all elements of the digital supply chain. We have complete coverage of the ecosystem.”  

For Interactive Advertising Bureau (IAB) chief executive, Gai Le Roy, the practices strive to bridge a disconnect between the granular, technical conversations going on between those who have a deep understanding of digital advertising, “with top-line market commentary that wasn’t always informed”.

“It was important for us to ensure all three side – four including the tech providers – were coming from the same angle. There was some common ground already, even though it didn’t seem like it in this environment,” she said. “It’s important that as digital becomes such a huge part of the ecosystem, people are confident in their investments, understand what choices they should be making and what questions they need to ask to gain confidence in that investment.”  

Media Federation Australia (MFA) CEO, Sophie Madden, agreed feedback from members and the wider market showed a lack of consistency, education and knowledge around a number of different digital issues.

“We needed to address these to move forward into the next stage of working in a digital age,” she said.  

So what does it mean for the client-side marketer? “In the real world, the typical situation where problems emerge is at an individual advertiser level, with his or her partners around the table. That’s where the rubber really has to hit the road in terms of working effectively,” Broome explained.

“This is where an enhanced level of understanding and common language around things like technical jargon has to resonate and make a change.

“If the right questions are being asked and whoever is asking has enhanced knowledge so they almost have an inkling of the right answer, then what we will see is better quality decision making, better investment choices, and better understanding around what needs to be delivered as an outcome, business or otherwise. As a result, you’ll get that trust and confidence in the room. That’s what a CMO or senior marketing leader has to navigate at the end of the day.”  

To arrive at its initial five key areas of focus, Madden said the associations spent considerable time defining what it needed to be done. While digital transparency, viewability, brand safety and ad fraud emerged early, the data piece was highlighted later in discussions but off the back of GDPR laws in Europe became more important, Le Roy said.

“We know this industry doesn’t stand still for very long. So these are the five key topics today, but there will be others tomorrow,” Broome said.

Le Roy said the associations also recognised a joint responsibility in trying to find answers. “We’re not trying to blame anyone. We’re all in this industry together, so it’s about how we have a respectful relationship where we ask the right questions,” she said.   

As a practical guide, the practices are not mandated solutions. Importantly, the ambition is not to provide one answer for everyone, Broome said.

“The CMO and marketer is accountable for a business outcome. And what we have to recognise is my business outcome may be different to yours – it’s unique to each advertiser,” he continued. “That did start the conversation in the working party around how to avoid a one size fits all to metrics and standards is not practical.  A metric relevant for you and your goals might be completely irrelevant for me and vice versa.

“It goes back to that conversation you’re having in the room with your partners around what you are trying to achieve and therefore, what are the right metrics to deliver these outcomes. This is where knowledge and choices come into play. As long as that robust conversation is happening, and it seems to be around the right metric that gets us to that right outcome and KPI, it’s relevant.”  

There has to be value equation agreed on, too. “If we set that metric higher, there might be a cost associated with that,” Broome pointed out. “Not only does the advertiser have to accept it, they have to do some form of ROI valuation to understand whether value is increasing as a result of setting those metrics higher. That’s the type of informed conversation we want to encourage as a result of releasing these practices.”

What was also important to the MFA was looking at these issues in combination. “Often the feedback our members give us is with education in the market to date, it’s very focused on one issue in isolation. But the reality is there’s a balancing act between all of these issues, and weighing up one thing versus another. It’s important to bring those together,” Madden said.

Now the practices are released, Madden said MFA will be embedded these into member training offerings. Le Roy, meanwhile, expected the practices to become a tool for members working within the digital advertising supply chain. 

“If there are training providers that want to build embrace and train around these practices, we’ll encourage that. We also encourage auditing and verification companies wanting to build these practices into their tools,” Broome added. “We don’t want these practices to know any boundaries.”

Success measures at a top-line level include high-level adoption, and establishing a common language across the ecosystem. But Broome recognise the need to get quantitative measurement behind adoption as well.

“It’s not like flicking on a light switch. It will take time for these to permeate through the ecosystem. But as long as we’re going back and measuring and we’re happy with progress, and as long as we’re reviewing and updating for how the ecosystem and challenges change over time, we can monitor that progress quite effectively,” Broome concluded.  

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