Ad Week Europe (or colloquially referred by some members of Goodstuff as Lad Week as those who attend the back to back talks during the day, attempt to repeat this effort during the social events in the evenings) is the time of year where biggest and best in market come to show their new wares. It’s a time for debate and where industry wigs discuss the challenges that face us ahead. This year particularly seemed to have a large cloud hanging over it with the Cambridge Analytica scandal breaking, uncertainly over GDPR and the looming fear of the ever-growing duopoly of Facebook & Google swallowing many of our partners. All of which set a ominous tone for us as advertisers, however also presents us with some clear challenges for us to overcome as an industry.

There were some clear themes that emerged from a series of talks that Goodstuff attended, first and foremost, if 2014,15 and 16 where the year of Mobile, 2017-18 was certainly to be the ‘Year of video’. Analysts are predicting that 80% of digital revenue will come from video by 2019 and with mobile video seeing growth rates of 100% in 2017. There are some clear challenges for agencies in the online video space, most prevalent is the question around how we determine ‘quality’, in a market where there are so many different players involved. From direct ‘premium publishers’, to the exchanges and aggregators and the walled gardens of YouTube and Facebook. All of whom are fighting for an ever-shrinking slice of ad spend which isn’t being taken by the ‘duopoly’.

The key challenge here for us as an agency is how exactly do we measure ‘quality views’, in a world where everyone uses a different measuring tool. Its not like TV where there has been an established standard for some 30+ years which has been agreed by the industry. Digital, or more specifically digital video hasn’t had this advantage, being relatively new by comparison. Whilst a call for uniformity in this space is desperately needed, we are incredibly far away from all media partners & agencies coming around the fire and singing Kumbaya. The main reason is this would put some players who sit inside ‘walled gardens’ such as Facebook at a disadvantage as they count a view at a much lower rate then say a premium publisher. Whilst this may seem a way off, there are some industry bodies who are trying to regulate some means of quality control and standards across the industry, such as the IAB, ISBA and JICWEB.

Furthermore, the distribution of content for so many of our partners is so heavily reliant on platforms to get eyeballs in front of them. The recent changes to Facebook’s algorithm highlighted clearly the power that these players hold, as a simple update could change the way consumers get to view content. Although this didn’t have quite the detrimental impact as some feared, however LittleThings, a social content company in the US may disagree after their investors got cold feet at the news of the change and pulled their funding. This clearly demonstrates for our partners who have a reliance on these platforms that they need to diversify and have a strategy in place where they can be platform agnostic as opposed to having their eggs in one basket.

Finally in the wake of Cambridge Analytica, as well as the after effects from YouTube and Facebook’s brand safety woes being felt, a call for transparency amongst our partners and clients was very apparent. As consumers become more savvy with their data, with things like #deleteFacebook started to trend once people become aware of what data Facebook were retaining. Its on us to help educate not only our clients but the market, on what exactly it is we are using this data for as ultimately the main goal is to serve more relevant advertising to the right audience. Now whilst this might be a slightly biased opinion and may sound naïve, as an agency we want to reduce wastage as much as possible to drive efficiencies for our clients and not piss people off who aren’t interested, as this will have a negative impact!

Whilst much of the above seems like there are some grey skies ahead, its not all doom and gloom. There are several initiatives from the IAB, to help set a strong standard for our industry such as the introduction of the ‘Gold Standard’. Which in partnership with the Coalition for Better Advertising, 23 of the biggest IAB board members including the Guardian, Google & Facebook, have agreed to adhere to three key actions to improve digital advertising which deal with Fraud, User experience and brand safety. The main takeaway from all this though, is that as media agency the onus Is on us to push for our partners to ensure they are upholding these principles and hold them accountable when they don’t. Unfortunately history has shown us that ultimately the ‘stick’ and not the ‘carrot’ will lead to change and as an agency the biggest ‘stick’ we have is ad spend. Therefore we need to educate our clients on this conversation and vote with our wallets, if we are to make an impact.

Chris Jeffs | Digital Account Manager