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The advent of digital media changed marketing forever. It brought unprecedented, targeted access to consumers – but at a cost. Massive efficiency gains quickly made way for click-obsession and a cynical search for targeted margins by the media supply chain.
Fraud, back-handers, data misuse and loss of trust in the dominant ‘digital duopoly’ have sent us spiralling backwards. Content, context and creativity – once the bedrock of advertising – were forgotten.
The industry lost its way – but positive change is already underway.
A shake-up of the media supply chain, driven at both ends by regulators and consumers, could radically reshape the industry. But for advertisers and vendors, there is also a critical role to play. Here are the five key steps they can take, to help build a bright future for digital media.
1. Diversity breeds creativity
The culture of a company has a huge impact on its creative output. It is proven that diverse teams are more effective across various industries, and media and advertising are no exception. Teams of people from the same background, ethnicity, education, or age create an echo chamber, breeding the same kind of thinking.
You wouldn’t want this from a creative team, so why should this be different in a tech environment?
If organisations were to deploy diverse teams of people to work on technology developments and advertising campaigns, they would foster creative thinking and a broader critique of a product or service from start to finish, ensuring stronger product development and happier customers.
From a wider business perspective, encouraging diversity makes fiscal sense. An inclusive workplace reduces staff turnover due to a more dynamic work environment, which is more conducive to innovation.
Diversity is good for profits, too, according to a 2018 report from McKinsey & Company. The report revealed that gender diverse executive teams are 21% more likely to experience above-average profitability than companies with less diverse teams.
2. Treat transparency as the bare minimum
In light of recent events such as Facebook’s Cambridge Analytica Scandal, it’s no surprise that consumer confidence in the ad industry is at an all time low. But they are not the only ones concerned; marketers need to know how their budget is being spent and how effective that spend is.
In fact, iotec’s recent Mobile Transparency Report found that full transparency is the most important part of a marketer’s relationship with their vendor. The top reason for changing ad-tech providers was transparency (20.2%), even above performance.
The lesson is clear: demand transparency throughout the whole supply chain as the bare minimum. Whether you’re using vendors, agencies or in-housing, it’s up to you to understand the true meaning of transparent adtech – every vendor has their own interpretation, so ask specific questions about rebates and margins.
3. Partner with industry bodies to validate and verify
Beyond ad effectiveness, cost, and placement, marketers need assurances that the inventory they are purchasing is safe for both their brand and the person viewing the ad.
Regulatory practices such as the Interactive Advertising Bureau’s ads.txt tool, which helps ad exchanges and buyers to avoid illegitimate sellers and help publishers to prevent unauthorised inventory sales, are going some way to straighten out unethical practice in the industry.
The Joint Industry Committee for Web Standards, also known as JICWEBS, is another great regulatory body that was created by media authorities to ensure web measurements and metrics are reliable. Companies in the UK and Ireland should look to only work with companies audited by JICWEBS DTSG compliance for brand safety and JICWEBS Ad Fraud compliance for ad fraud.
Earlier this year, JICWEBS adopted the ‘Certified Against Fraud’ programme against online ad fraud developed by the Trustworthy Accountability Group (TAG) in the US, which means that the UK and the US will share the same set of anti-fraud standards.
4. Help build best practice
The advertising industry has a collective responsibility to challenge and change how the adtech supply chain works. The shake-up to come will leave room for forward-thinking industry practitioners to play a key role here.
Earlier this year, we launched an Ethical Adtech Manifesto to encourage open dialogue and action in bringing transparency and accountability to digital media.
There are plenty of other initiatives bringing positive change to the industry, too, such as The Conscious Advertising Network (CAN). CAN is a voluntary coalition of over 30 organisations set up to ensure that industry ethics catches up with the technology of modern advertising. The organisation developed a set of six manifestos, with the aim of getting their principles embedded into every UK agency brief.
Pledge your voice to campaigns like this, share your ideas and play an active role in building a trusted digital media landscape.
5. Be ready to learn and re-learn
Whether you’re a CMO or an intern, embracing a learning mindset will be critical to your own success in the coming years. For every stakeholder group, the rules will evolve and skill-sets must constantly evolve in tandem – whether you’re in-housing your adtech stack or delivering effective campaigns as a creative agency.
When it comes to the digital advertising supply chain, building effective relationships with third parties is of paramount importance. To effect change, ad buyers will need to work closely with trusted third parties to become more powerful and successful parts of the supply chain.
A new dawn?
The digital media industry may be under pressure – but positive change is already underway. For those who embrace these five key steps, a huge opportunity lies ahead to create a stronger sector that rebuilds trust and delivers creative, effective campaigns that build great brands. And that’s an opportunity worth investing in.
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