Enough of the mudslinging: getting digital right is in everyone's best interests

IAB UK CEO, Jon Mew, argues that reports that brands could be funding terror groups through online ads highlight the need for the industry to stop mudslinging and work together.

First published on Campaign

It’s been a busy old week in IAB towers. I’m sure the negative reports and opinion pieces about digital advertising will not have escaped your attention, continuing a disappointing trend in digital bashing that has been ramping up recently.

Not only is this a huge shame (because frankly who really needs more bad news right now) but also as it betrays a worrying attitude in the industry of point scoring and scare mongering.

This is not how we work at the IAB, we have always stood for positivity, collaboration and a progressive approach, which we’d like to think has helped digital advertising grow to being the £8.6bn industry it is was in 2015.

The issues this week have really gathered around a perceived lack of transparency in the placement of digital ads, which means that bad guys of various forms are being funded by advertising spend.

This is a very serious and legitimate concern. I think I can speak for the whole industry when I say there is not a single one of us who wants this to happen.

No one in the industry benefits from this, not brands, nor their agencies, nor anyone in the supply chain. This is not a win for any of those people. Bearing this in mind, also remember no one intends this to happen either.

I’m certainly not making excuses, far from it, even one instance of digital advertising funding the wrong people is one too many. More, I am taking this opportunity to call for an industry "arms down", in favour of a move towards collaboration. 

Let’s put our energy and resources into making digital better, into stopping criminal activity which is so clearly a more important end goal than each media channel getting one up on each other. 

We’ve already proved we can do it through the headway we’ve made with JICWEBS and the Digital Trading Standards Group (DTSG), giving brands the tools to make more transparent media buys, not to mention the plentiful choice brands have in how they buy digital media, which gives ultimate control in their ad placement.

I suspect the sudden surge in recent interest in these issues was kick-started by Marc Pritchard’s speech from our North American cousin’s ALM conference.

I’ve been fascinated to see how this presentation has been interpreted across the industry. For many it was only a damming criticism of digital – but I suspect they didn’t bother to watch the whole thing if that’s what they took out of it. To me (and I was there) it was the perfect example of a call for collaboration and action, and from a top client no less.

He clearly listed the real-life actions P&G were going to take to make their digital advertising better, and asked everyone to join him.

Today I do the same. Digital advertising is a truly unique platform, and it is in the interests of the entire industry to work hard to get it right. Don’t fight us, join us.


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