John Wren on Viewability: Publishers Should Not Grade Their Own Homework

Omnicom CEO Weighs in on Ad Blocking, Transparency and Media Reviews in Earnings Call

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Omnicom Group President-CEO John Wren.
Omnicom Group President-CEO John Wren. Credit: Balint Porneczi/Bloomberg
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In a conference call after the holding company's third-quarter earnings announcement, Omnicom Group President-CEO John Wren addressed three issues that have been top of mind with the advertising community -- viewability, media transparency and ad blocking.

Viewability, which Mr. Wren described as "how much of an ad is seen by the actual consumer and for how long," is a focus for the company, which advocates for third-party verification independent of a publisher's verification.

"Publishers should not grade their own homework," said Mr. Wren. "We've been providing third-party verification on programmatic and digital network buys," he said, later explaining that the company hires independent verifiers, as opposed to using in-house resources. "It gives us the data and visibility we need to adjust publisher pricing on viewability rates, and ensure that clients receive the value they expect."

He said that the company is also supporting efforts to combat client concerns surrounding transparency by backing the ANA-4A's joint task force to create U.S. media transparency principles. Those principles should be issued shortly, he said.

"In conversations with clients, advertisers are seeking more choices today in terms of service and performance requirements. It underscores the industry's obligations for strict contractual compliance. Disclosure of all services, and the return of rebates in the U.S., from an Omnicom standpoint, is fundamental to essential trust between the client and agency."

Mr. Wren also provided an update on the many media reviews that contributed to the company's net new billings of $950 million in the third quarter. He said the company has been selective, not going after Citi, Coke, Coty or L'Oreal. It has gone after, and won, SC Johnson and Wells Fargo, as well as international Bacardi work, while successfully defending JC Penney and GSK. Ongoing reviews should wrap up by Thanksgiving.

On ad-blocking, Mr. Wren said, "It's an ongoing battle. People don't have to sit there and suffer things that are not of interest to them. It's on us to improve the product. Some high-quality publishers are already requiring users to disable ad blockers to gain access to their content. We'll see what happens in that battle. We're addressing it ourselves by focusing on the work and the content."