How the UK is leading the way in brand safety online

The news last month that Yahoo, AOL and Google's DoubleClick have joined Microsoft in the fight against online ad misplacement by having their ad serving processes certified by JICWEBS, further underlines how the UK leads the way in safety online, says ABC's Richard Foan.

It’s in everyone’s interest to ensure that online advertising is appropriately placed, it does no one’s reputation any good if advertising ends up next to inappropriate or even illegal content.

And as automated trading takes an ever bigger slice of the digital ad pie – the last IAB study forecast that programmatic could account for as much as 75% of the online digital display market within three years - we all need to be working in an industry where online brand safety is assured, and that means having an environment for online advertising that is demonstrably professional, open and transparent.

It’s fair to say that the approach being taken by the UK industry to achieve this environment is showing the rest of the world the way forward. It’s a collaborative approach which we at JICWEBS - the Joint Industry Committee for Web Standards in the UK and Ireland - feel is sensitive to the complex ecosystem of the digital media business and to the commercial imperatives of all involved: it is collegiate and takes account of the views of key stakeholders throughout the industry.

A collaborative approach of course means that there can be no quick fix to ensure online brand safety, but I believe it is the only realistic approach the industry can take, and the only one which will ensure a workable solution in the longer term. JICWEBS is itself about industry collaboration; it is facilitated by ABC and its stakeholders come from the key trade associations involved in digital media, including the IAB, ISBA, AOP, IPA, NS and NPA.

JICWEBS was set up to ensure independent development and ownership of standards for measuring performance online and to benchmark best practice for online ad trading, and our efforts in this area have just received a resounding endorsement. We have been able to certify the ad serving processes of Yahoo, AOL and Google’s Doubleclick as meeting industry agreed standards to reduce the risk of online ads being served next to inappropriate content.

These three digital powerhouses join Microsoft Advertising which was certified by JICWEBS some months ago, and their certification means that 20 companies have now been issued with the JICWEBS brand safety seal. Another 18 companies have also committed to undergo verification of their ad serving processes within six months.

I’ve been delighted by the both the large number and the market influence of companies in the UK who have so far committed to JICWEBS’ brand safety initiative, and feel this stands as testament to our industry’s willingness to support audited best practice.

It should be added that there’s also a strong international aspect to all of this, because many of the JICWEBS standard measurement definitions have been adopted by the IFABC (International Federation of Audit Bureaux of Circulations). So we have global standards which are being applied to local markets, and advertisers, agencies and media owners can be confident that their commercial decisions are based on data that meets internationally recognised benchmarks of transparency.  

At JICWEBS, we are looking at other issues related to brand safety online over the next few months. Viewability is an area of much debate right now: ABC has been working on behalf of JICWEBS to bring some transparency to the issue and progress how viewability could be defined and measured in order to deliver standardisation and a stamp of trust to the various measurement solutions available. I’m looking forward to the next few weeks when we will be able to share some of the work done by ABC in this area.

Of course there are other ingredients in the digital media stew which could be looked into and some of these are on the menu for JICWEBS in the coming year. Fraud is one such, highly emotive, topic. We will be investigating what our industry means by fraud, and it’s already clear that there are a number of types of technology and human applications that may affect site impressions or ad traffic counts and which some in the business regard as fraudulent.

JICWEBS will be examining what self regulatory principles are needed to bring increased trust, transparency and, therefore, reduced risk in this area. I look forward to hearing your views and experiences and to sharing them with the digital media community.

Richard Foan is Chair of JICWEBS and Group Executive Director of Communication & Innovation for ABC

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