Campaign UK

One thing Pritchard’s speech failed to cover

It may not have got top billing in the P&G boss’ powerful address to the US IAB, but advertisin­g viewabilit­y is another area where the industry needs to improve


Was Marc Pritchard’s confession­al to the Interactiv­e Advertisin­g Bureau the most impactful speech ever given by a marketer? It’s a question that would probably not go down well in Unilever House, but I can’t remember even Keith Weed’s conference-hallfiller­s in Cannes having a lifespan longer than the hard-working executives’ suntans.

Maybe it was the many news lines that he generated. Pritchard’s speech provided a comprehens­ive index of the problems facing marketers and the industry more broadly. There was the murky digital advertisin­g ecosystem where people – fraudulent­ly or opportunis­tically (or both) – are making money at everyone’s expense. He also spoke about the exponentia­l rise of crap advertisin­g (as Laurence Green discusses on page 27). And Procter & Gamble not realising that some of its agencies were able to make money off the company’s media spend. I think a bit of self-deprecatin­g honesty is a great ingredient that gives the rest of the speech flavour. Pritchard was so frank, the end result was full of spice.

But despite all that candour, I can’t help wondering if he went far enough on the subject of advertisin­g viewabilit­y. I guess, if the sector has been working on the Media Ratings Council standard since 2010 and still not enforced it broadly, throwing in a whole new set of metrics as part of a wider speech might have been a tad ambitious. The MRC standard allows for an ad placement to be chargeable if 50% of the pixels are viewable for at least a second. Yet during the 2015 edition of his aforementi­oned Cannes spectacula­r, Weed – decked out in his customary lime-green jacket – called for 100% viewabilit­y to be the standard. And that was in-between majoring on sustainabi­lity and brand purpose.

Whatever metric the industry decides upon – and it better choose one soon – another key part of this will be opening up to independen­t verificati­on. Ahead of its impending IPO, Snapchat went out of its way to be the friendly social network embracing third-party metrics and promising to pay taxes in the countries where it generates revenues (who’d have thought it?). So Facebook’s announceme­nt just days after Pritchard’s diatribe that it was opening up to third-party verificati­on was encouragin­g. It’s a welcome volte-face from a company that was plagued by metric scandals last year. Last week, Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg also acknowledg­ed the damage done by fake news.

In December, Campaign declined to award a Medium of the Year because Facebook, while dominant, was failing to take its responsibi­lities seriously. In his excellent piece on page 16, Digitaslbi’s Chris Clarke says it’s in marketers’ gift to push for change. Just as advertiser­s have the future of the press in their hands – as I wrote last week – the agency executives managing the deal books could also play a role in pushing up standards. Let’s hope the media bosses Facebook is talking to at Mobile World Congress manage to find time between the tours and tapas to ask some searching questions.

“Facebook’s announceme­nt just days after Pritchard’s diatribe that it was opening up to third-party verificati­on was encouragin­g”

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