Improving transparency ‘is not just down to Google’, says new UK boss

Google’s new boss Ronan Harris defends the company’s record on viewability and measurement in the face of rising advertiser concerns.

Google managing director for UK and Ireland Ronan Harris

Google’s new boss for the UK and Ireland Ronan Harris has defended the company’s record on ad viewability and transparency and insisted that other stakeholders in the digital economy must play their part in improving standards.

Harris faced a direct challenge over ad safety from WPP CEO Sir Martin Sorrell during an IPA event last week. Sorrell claimed that Google was being evasive about how its algorithms and advertising technology works, despite long-held and vocal concerns from the marketing community.

In addition, P&G chief brand officer Marc Pritchard recently criticised the likes of Facebook and Google for a lack of transparency in how they share data with advertisers and for “marking their own homework” when reporting campaign results.

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However, in an interview with Marketing Week (conducted before the IPA event), Harris claims Google is tackling issues such as ad measurability and brand safety alongside other industry players.

“It’s not down to just one company to set the agenda or set the standards – it’s got to be a collection across media owners, creative and media agencies, and importantly the advertisers themselves, as to what they want to see,” he adds.

Harris, who was promoted within Google to his current role last October, says the company is committed to having its data verified by third parties such as Nielsen and comScore. He adds, though, that achieving easily transferable measurement data across different media channels is currently not possible.

“When I speak to marketers, they’d love to be able to measure the return on every spend they have across every media in the same way – [but] today we haven’t got apples for apples comparisons when you go across different media and platforms, whether that’s digital or traditional,” he says.

“There is a utopian idea that we’d all love to achieve in order to make life easier for marketers and advertisers, but we’re a long way from achieving that.”

Despite the recent challenges from the likes of Sorrell and Pritchard, Harris says he is confident brands will continue to grow their investments in digital advertising.

“This conversation has been around for some years and I think it will continue to be around, but as long as [advertisers] believe and trust that there are real concerted, authentic efforts going into resolving these issues and providing them with the safety and choice they want, I think they’ll be confident with digital media.”