‘Performance-enhancing drugs’ threaten digital advertising

Alice Manners

Alice was appointed CEO of IAB Australia in August 2013. She is responsible for the overall management of the IAB and achievement of the organisation’s objectives, to represent and promote the interests of members, and to grow the interactive advertising industry.

Mike Zaneis, the executive vice-president of public policy and general counsel at the IAB US, recently described the myriad issues facing the digital advertising industry as a war.

At first blush, that might seem a dramatic claim but when you consider the various fronts where the digital industry is vulnerable, including fraudulent traffic, malware and piracy and the sophistication and organisation of the criminals engaged in these activities, the war analogy makes sense.

Interestingly and importantly, Zaneis points out that the war is not only with the criminals who perpetrate these digital crimes, noting: “We are also at war with ourselves. We have created an overly complex and porous supply chain that is obfuscated from the very marketers we hope to sell to. And, we have not shown the necessary vision and commitment to effectively fight back.”

I couldn’t agree more.

As a digital advertising team, we’ve been on a winning streak – 2013 saw the online advertising industry valued at $4bn with 19.3 per cent year-on-year growth. Australia is firing on all cylinders when it comes to mobile advertising, taking home eight awards from Cannes; and video advertising saw 58 per cent year-on-year growth for the March quarter 2013.

We have talented players and innovative coaches and we are providing content that audiences are consuming and enjoying. We’ve got a lot of skin in this game.

But in the midst of all our achievement, issues around brand safety continue to rear their ugly heads. So I’m going to call it loud – in my view, performance-enhancing drugs have the same sort of impact on professional sports as brand safety issues have on digital advertising. They threaten the reputation of our industry as a whole, breed mistrust between us and our audiences, and dim the light of our successes.

To use a most oft-repeated sports analogy: We need to up our game and play better offence. The ball is in our court.

So, what do we do?

We need to kick some goals. The foundation of the IAB Australia Brand Safety Council, launched this year, is about proactively combating threats to brand safety. They’ll be working on eliminating fraudulent traffic, combating malware, fighting Internet piracy, promoting brand safety through greater transparency; and creating accountability.

The first piece of work to come from the Council is a framework for achieving these goals, Traffic Fraud Best Practices and Quality Assurance Guidelines, which is tailored specifically to the Australian digital marketing supply chain. These guidelines will go a long way towards consolidating the necessary vision Zaneis noted is needed.

The next step will be showing the “commitment to effectively fight back”.

We are in the midst of an important conversation with our audiences about issues such as privacy and online behavioural advertising (OBA). However, online traffic fraud, malware and piracy threaten to overtake this conversation and cast a shadow over our industry unless every member of the digital supply chain commits to doing all they can to combat these issues in an accountable and transparent manner.

IAB Australia and the Brand Safety Council are the coaches – we can provide strategies and guidance to assist in continuing the digital winning streak we’re on. But coaches are nothing without their players. It is the players who either win the game…or lose it.

Ultimately, it’s up to the publishers, agencies and advertisers alike to make sure they’re doing their part to make the online advertising landscape safe and honest. So let’s do it!

Tags: digital advertising, brand strategy, video advertising

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