Is the IAB Doing Enough?

Metrics, Fraud and Piracy Remain Concerns in the Marketplace

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Digital-media consumption is growing, and the marketplace has made remarkable strides in recent years, but concerns remain about metrics, fraudulent traffic and the risk of supporting piracy. In TV, where the biggest advertising money is spent, marketers wouldn't pay for ads that won't be seen, are "viewed" by robots instead of people, or show up around pirated content. Digital media promotes real-time data and real-time action, but our industry must do better to maintain and bolster our credibility and viability in this area.

The responsibility must start with the online ad sellers, and this is the territory of the Interactive Advertising Bureau, which represents media and technology companies that it says are responsible for selling 86% of online advertising in the United States. The IAB may be the only organzation able to direct action and correction across the entire sell side.

Is it doing a good job of this? Sometimes, yes, sometimes no. Here are some questions (and answers) for all of us to ponder:

Is IAB doing enough to support better metrics? Yes. Through its Making Measurement Make Sense initiative, the IAB, the Association of National Advertisers, the American Association of Advertising Agencies and the Media Rating Council have driven the industry toward making digital measurement more directly comparable with traditional measurement -- a pivotal advancement. Soon, the viewable impression will be ready for wide-scale adoption. With this measurement, advertisers will be able to pay only for ads that can be seen, and buyers can make meaningful comparisons between the performance of digital and all other media. It's the gateway to new measures and models that will elevate the entire sector.

Is IAB doing enough to fight fraudulent traffic? Not yet, but it will. Not long ago, IAB established the Traffic of Good Intent Task Force, more than 30 member companies dedicated to finding solutions to this problem. The plan is to incorporate the group's future recommendations into the IAB Quality Assurance Guidelines, an adoptable framework that the industry can (and should) use to address many critical issues around brand and advertiser safety.

Is IAB doing enough to fight the advertising support of pirated content? No, though it does show signs of beginning to engage. The most recent update to the Quality Assurance Guidelines added a clause prohibiting the sale of ad inventory on sites promoting and providing pirated materials. IAB has also invited content owners to take leadership positions on the Quality Assurance Guidelines Steering Committee, to assert more publisher-friendly, anti-piracy change. These are positive moves.

Overall, is IAB doing enough? Progress could be faster, but it's doing better than anyone else.

None of what IAB and its members are doing will satisfy marketers if the recommendations aren't quickly put into practice. If sellers don't adopt the viewable impression and the Quality Assurance Guidelines as soon as possible, the whole industry will be held down.

The responsibility, however dependent on the sell side, isn't theirs alone. Agencies and marketers must also step up to work toward industry-wide consensus. The Digital Advertising Alliance's consumer privacy self-regulatory program and Making Measurement Make Sense demonstrate how the entire industry can work together to impel positive change.

There's also the money. Brands and buyers need to vote with their dollars, increasing budgets for good players. The demand is there. Marketers would invest more with interactive media, if only they were comfortable doing so. And really, everyone profits when powerful interactive consumer experiences make it to the surface.

Ari Bluman is Chief Digital Investment Officer for GroupM.

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