Premium Publishers Tell P&G's Pritchard They Can Solve His Digital Ad Problems

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Marc Pritchard speaks at IAB Annual Leadership Meeting.
Marc Pritchard speaks at IAB Annual Leadership Meeting. Credit: IAB

An association of well-known publishers has responded to the recent call by Procter & Gamble to clean up digital advertising or lose access to P&G's massive budgets, arguing that advertising with high-quality websites is one way out of the digital mess.

P&G Chief Brand Officer Marc Pritchard last month told the Interactive Advertising Bureau's Annual Leadership Meeting in Hollywood, Fla., that the marketer would stop paying for any digital media, ad tech services, agencies or others that don't adhere to industry standards for fraud protection, viewability and third-party verification.

"The days of giving digital a pass are over," Mr. Pritchard said, asking other marketers to take the same line. "It's time to grow up. It's time for action."

Premium publishers solve for Mr. Pritchard's problems, according to the response on Thursday by Jason Kint, CEO of Digital Content Next, whose members include publishers such as Atlantic Media, Hearst, The New York Times, Time Inc., Tronc, Turner and Vox Media.

"We have heard your calls for human, viewable, third-party accredited inventory," Mr. Kint wrote in an open letter to Mr. Pritchard. "We have heard your calls for brand safety. We want to assure you that our trusted, market-leading brands will continue to engage in meaningful ways to promote and protect your trusted brands."

Premium publishers have also proven attractive targets for online criminals, who go where the money is whenever possible.

Here's Mr. Kint's letter in full:

Marc Pritchard
Chair, Association of National Advertisers
Global Brand Building Officer, Procter & Gamble
1 Procter & Gamble Plaza
Cincinnati, OH 45202

February 16, 2017

Dear Marc,

As you noted in your recent remarks, the digital ad ecosystem is "murky at best and fraudulent at worst," costing marketers and publishers money and inflicting damage to brands with little recourse or accountability. This dynamic is especially troubling in an environment where trust and value are under constant attack. Digital Content Next (DCN) is the only trade association that solely represents premium publishers. Our members know first-hand that both brand value and trust are hard to build but easy to destroy.

In December 2014, The Association of National Advertisers (ANA) released Bot Baseline: Fraud in Digital Advertising, a seminal report that uncovered shocking amounts of marketing dollars being siphoned off to fraudulent parties. The 2015 version of The Report found that fraud rates ranged from 3 to 37 percent and forecasted that advertisers would lose $7.2 Billion to bots globally in 2016. Meanwhile, The Media Rating Council (MRC) has developed a standard for "viewability," but not all actors in the ecosystem abide those rules or allow for third-party auditing to ensure compliance. More recently, the ANA's Media Transparency Study indicated that a range of undesirable practices were pervasive in the media ad-buying industry, many brought on by issues involving previously unrevealed incentives throughout an often opaque supply chain. Finally, the rise of a programmatic, automated advertising industry has brought new and improved efficiencies and scale, but it has not yet solved for ensuring that advertising messages regularly find the proper context or environment – both to ensure maximum impact of that advertising and to protect the integrity and safety of the marketer's brand – or that these advertising dollars go to actual working media.

We have heard your calls for human, viewable, third-party accredited inventory. We have heard your calls for brand safety. We want to assure you that our trusted, market-leading brands will continue to engage in meaningful ways to promote and protect your trusted brands. The 80+ premium publisher brands of DCN are committed to building trustworthy experiences and marketing transactions for consumers and advertisers.

As noted in DCN's Bot Benchmark Report: What Makes A Publisher Premium -- DCN member companies have bot rates of less than 3%. The White Ops Security Team, which conducted both The ANA reports and our benchmark report, stated that whether buying direct or via programmatic channels, the primary way to avoid fraud is economic rather than technical and advertisers need additional transparency into the flow of their investments and placement of their advertising. We couldn't agree more.

Regarding viewability, our businesses of high-reputation news and entertainment rely on delivering consumer attention well beyond the MRC standard. We agree with your rightful demand -- all companies should adopt "MRC accredited, third-party measurement verification."

DCN has a firm commitment to transparency and will work hard to support your efforts to diminish non-transparent practices in the industry. We know marketers want to run advertising in trusted environments that enhance their brands and messaging. As comScore has recently shown in their study, "The Halo Effect," DCN's members offer precisely these environments. The more transparency from start to finish, the better the digital advertising ecosystem will work in providing value to brand advertising.

In addition to the above, DCN and over 30 of its premium publisher members have announced the launch of TrustX, a premium private marketplace designed to address these challenges for digital advertising in a cooperative manner. The sole purpose of TrustX is to create a sustainable future for trusted advertising, which will value transparency and accountability for marketers and consumers. There are seats at the table for major marketers and agency-holding companies to join TrustX immediately in this industry-changing marketplace.

As we begin 2017, DCN and its member companies are committed to earn your trust and work with you to bring transparency and authenticity to the digital advertising ecosystem. We welcome the opportunity to collaborate on research, best practices and industry efforts to improve our ecosystem and ensure that our collective brands can prosper. We formally ask that you and the leadership team of the ANA join our DCN membership at our next board meeting to discuss next steps to accelerate this change across the industry.


Jason Kint
Digital Content Next

cc. Bob Liodice, CEO of Association of National Advertisers
cc. Nancy Hill, CEO of American Association of Advertising Agencies

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