Ad misplacement measures stall

Advertising trade bodies have voiced concerns over delays in agreeing a cross-industry initiative aimed at protecting brands from the reputational damage ad misplacement online can cause.

Talks between trade bodies to establish cross-industry guidelines to protect brands online have been put on hold, according to sources.

The industry has been in talks for the last 18 months to establish a set of best-practice principles for the online advertising trading process following the closure of Internet Advertising Sales Houses (IASH) in 2011.

Advertisers are concerned about the lack of transparency around the process and are seeking new ways to reduce the reputational impact of having online ads appear against inappropriate and illegal content.

Cross-industry initiative the Digital Standards Trading Group (DTSG) – consisting of the IPA, ISBA and the IAB – was formed last February to spearhead the push beyond advertisers, publishers and agencies to the wider digital ecosystem through talks facilitated by auditing body the ABC.

However, the DTSG has been put on hold since the start of April, according to sources close to talks, after “insufficient” progress was being made on a solution. It is thought that “elements” within the IAB are against the ad trading process being independently verified by a body such as the ABC in favour of developing a set of self-regulatory standards for its members.

The IAB insists however, the cross-industry group “remains live and well” and is currently sounding opinions from its membership to draft its own set of guidelines. It adds the guidelines will be presented at a meeting at the end of the month (30 April) although it is understood that ISBA, the IPA and ABC will not attend. The DTSG last met in January.

Nick Stringer, head of regulatory affairs at the IAB, says: “We need to agree principles that are as broad as possible, we are moving from an IASH model – which was about ad networks – to one that reflects the diversity of the market.

“We need to get all those compliance models on board before we can develop a compliance model that suits the business models [of the new ad-serving companies]… We don’t want to have to create something that has to be re-invented a couple of years later.”

The online advertising trading industry has developed at pace in recent years and observers say brands need a set of “straightforward principles” to ensure an appropriate destination for their ads. Currently, trading is not universally verified and advertisers are not always aware what content their ads will be served up against.

It is understood the lack of sufficient progress through the DTSG was the reason behind the IPA and ISBA joining forces to launch their own set of independently verified principles last month (27 March) with sources claiming “progress needed to be made” to prevent the “huge reputational damage” ad misplacement can have on brands.

Last year, ads for online gaming company 888 starring Australian cricketer appeared on porn sites while in 2011 Samsung pulled ads from a Google Android app allowing users to download music free of charge.

Nigel Gwilliam, head of digital at the IPA, says: “Advertisers and agencies are at the sharp end of brand safety. In the rare instances of an advertiser being named and shamed for inadvertently appearing adjacent to inappropriate content, it’s the advertiser that suffers. And the first thing that advertiser – understandably – does is call up their agency to ask what the hell occurred.”

“The alternative to independent verification is self certification – in the property market, self certification mortgages are also known as ‘liar loans’ and will be banned next year. It’s human nature for some to abuse this kind of system – why would we want to mirror it?.”

Both ISBA and ABC declined to comment on the progress on the DTSG.

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