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Earlier this year, Marc Pritchard, Chief Brand Officer of one of the world’s largest brands, Procter & Gamble, famously gave a very harsh and stern warning to agencies and in fact all of digital marketing: “The days of giving digital a pass are over. It’s time to grow up. It’s time for action.”
Pritchard made this bold statement at the Interactive Advertising Bureau’s annual meeting held in Hollywood, Florida. His comments included strictures on brand safety, transparency, and outright fraud taking place with online marketing platforms throughout the entire strata of the internet. And he didn’t pull any punches.
Pritchard is not the first, nor in all probability will he be the last, executive to erupt in displeasure at the ongoing controversies and transparency issues that have bedeviled online advertising since before the last presidential campaign brought so many dicey nuggets of scandal and perplexity to light.
Of particular concern to Pritchard and others like him is the continuing problem of inappropriate juxtaposition online. When a hate group page on Facebook is filled with ads for well-known brands of soap, cereal, and car wax, the public’s perception of those brands goes markedly downhill like a skier down a slalom. Both Google and Facebook initially told some of their biggest clients that new algorithms would automatically take care of this problem. But they didn’t. Instead, dairy products were being touted on soft porn sites and children’s clothing brands wound up next to white supremacy rants.
What is needed, says Pritchard, is personal and individual oversight on all ads at all times on all sites. Otherwise, he warned, advertising dollars would be yanked from online platforms and placed with more traditional and more reliable media. And that’s a lot of money. Last year alone, over $72 billion was spent on digital advertising in the United States. And for the first time ever, that was more than was spent on television advertising. So a watershed has been reached, but Pritchard and others may be on the verge of reversing that windfall for digital advertisers.
Needless to say, both Google and Facebook, and a host of other social media companies, are promising to fix the problem once and for all in the next few months. They cannot (some say will not) hire the manpower necessary to monitor each individual page in their online multi-universe — but they are coming up with some very enterprising solutions. According to James M. Wirth, Tulsa attorney with the Wirth Law Office, “this might look good on paper, but implementing sweeping measures like this has historically been mired down in more bureaucratic red tape than it’s worth.”
At the Dmexco conference in Germany this week Pritchard may just yet deliver another blistering attack on ad-tech follies, but his targets will also be there to display their answers to his charges. YouTube, for instance, will unveil their new policy to dampen commercial payments for videos that have a terrorist or hate flavor. Their strategy is to deny any advertising revenue to accounts that do not rack up at least ten thousand views in a set period of time. The thought behind that rule being that an account must prove to be a legitimate educational, commercial, or entertainment venue with a decent following before it can access full commercial benefits.
Facebook also reportedly will follow suit with a similar policy concerning the number of views a site legitimately produces.
Not So Fast
But these media giants are not quite so fast on the draw when it comes to Pritchard’s charges of out and out fraud, using opaque analytics and wonky stats that prove very little but cost a lot. The lack of standard metrics still plagues the industry as a whole, with no standardization protocols in place as of yet.
This also goes for brand safety in the sense that hackers can still too easily break into a platform and siphon off millions of dollars using autobot minions, as in the recent Methbot case, where Russian hackers were getting about four million dollars a day from phony site visits.
Right now Facebook may be in the lead in proactively trying to keep those billions of advertising dollars cascading into their pockets instead of migrating elsewhere. Their Facebook Audience Network (FAN) is proving popular with advertising and marketing firms and corporate departments. It will be fully implemented by the time of the Dmexco conference. It basically assures advertisers that their ads will be monitored so closely that they cannot be placed anywhere near red-flagged websites. The trick, of course, is to make sure the right websites get the red flag and don’t sneak under the radar.
All major social media players also plan to announce within the next few weeks or months that advertisers will be given access to specific details on which sites their ads have appeared on, so that, for instance, an advertiser that does not want their brand on Breitbart will be able to track their individual ad placements to insure it didn’t happen.
The bottom line is that all brands with any skin in the game are now demanding a much larger say in where and how their digital advertising is placed. And if media giants like Google and Facebook don’t want to play along, the brands will take their marbles (meaning money) someplace else to play.
This article originally appeared on Forbes.