Keith Weed calls for 'system change' to rebuild trust in UK advertising

AA is launching five initiatives to address this.

Unilever’s top marketer Keith Weed has called for a "system change" in the UK ad industry amid a long-term decline in public trust in advertising.

Weed, the Advertising Association president, announced it would publish a policy paper that sets out five key initiatives to rebuild trust after a multitude of brand-safety issues in recent years.

During a keynote speech at the Lead conference in London today, Weed said: "As an industry, we have a responsibility to clean up our own backyard. This is a fantastic pilot for the world that we can take to Facebook and Google and take this model elsewhere.

"Without trust, advertising has no future. A brand without trust is just a product. Advertising without trust is just noise."

The initiatives in the white paper will be taken up by a cross-industry group made up of advertisers, agencies and media owners and led by the AA, the IPA and ISBA.

It comes after public trust in advertising has fallen to a record low, according to research revealed earlier at the conference today.

The schemes include:

1. Reducing the negative impact of bombardment

2. Best practice to address excessive frequency and retargeting

3. Raising awareness of self-regulation of advertising content

4. Raising awareness of effective regulation of data usage in advertising

5. Gathering industry-wide support advertising as a force for good.

Marketers should 'stop trying to be the CTO'

Weed's keynote preceded a lively panel debate at today's conference, which AA chief executive Stephen Woodford later described as the moment when action against mistrust in advertising was "kick-started".

Hamish Nicklin, chief revenue officer at The Guardian, said the industry was guilty of "massively oversteering" its activity towards data and targeting, rather than the quality of the brand's creatie messaging.

"I would love chief marketing officers to be able to spend more thime thinking about the message instead of trying to be the chief technology officer," Nicklin said. "The conversations I'm brought into is 'how do we make sense of all this technology?' as opposed to 'what are we actually saying?'"

Panel: Blackett, Nicklin, Harris and Weed

Weed, Unilever's outgoing chief marketing and communications officer, disagreed with Nicklin about brands targeting "too much" and said the industry is at a natural stage in its evolution.

"I'm not digital convert, but I spend Unilever's money where consumers spend their time. We need to double down on sorting out these issues. Yes, there are problems around data, but remember there is the issue of annoying TV ads too."

WPP UK country manager Karen Blackett described the backlash over poorly targeted ads as people having moved from "mindless consumerism to mindful consumerism".

However, Google's UK and Ireland vice-president and managing director, Ronan Harris, predicted that "we're all going to live in this world for another year or two" as programmatic advertising has become popular in the industry for a relatively short time.

He said: "The job of the chief marketing officer will move back from data and tech specialism and into understanding my customers and getting insights about them. It's then about placing bets around that with the great creative resources at my disposal."

The white paper will be published at the ISBA annual conference on 5 March.

Stephen Woodford, chief executive of the AA, said in a statement: "Trust is at the top of our agenda this year and in the years ahead. The time has come for a collective effort, a true system change, to ensure the long-term health and sustainability of our industry for future generations of creative talent."

Weed is retiring from Unilever after 35 years at the FMCG giant later this year.

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