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Facebook, Google Challenged to Improve Ad Measurement Standards

UK ad group calls for duopoly to adopt ‘acceptable industry standards’

UK ad industry trade group the Institute of Practitioners in Advertising (IPA) is calling on YouTube and Facebook to work with it and fellow trade group ISBA – the Voice of British Advertisers to bring the brand safety, measurement and viewability of the digital advertising on their platforms up to “acceptable industry standards.”

In a public letter released yesterday, IPA director general Paul Bainsfair called on Facebook and Google to fulfill certain standards regarding brand safety, video audience measurement and video viewability issues.

To address brand safety, the IPA urged YouTube and Facebook to become signatories to the Digital Trading Standards Group (DTSG)’s UK Good Practice Principles, a list of digital ad standards designed to protect brand safety and limit misplacement of online ads, among other issues.

Regarding video audience measurement, the IPA requested the two companies meet standards created by third parties that measure audience size, with the expected goal of improving cross-platform video audience metrics in the UK.

As to video viewability, the IPA requested that Facebook and YouTube work to use the UK as a testing ground for online and mobile ad inventory that is 100% viewable, with verification by third parties.

“As the two biggest online video suppliers, YouTube and Facebook have a responsibility to ensure the best possible standards for advertising on their platforms,” Bainsfair wrote.

“While we acknowledge that small steps towards addressing recent concerns have been taken, our advertisers and agencies are increasingly telling us that this progress is neither fast, nor significant, enough,” he continued. “We believe it is incumbent upon the key players in this sector, therefore, to show real commitment to finding solutions to these problems.”

In response, a Facebook spokesperson said: "We are already engaged in a constructive dialogue with the IPA and its members on these important topics. We take our commitment to advertisers seriously, and through continued investment and innovation we're making progress, together with our partners in the industry.

"In the last few months we've announced an extra 3,000 content reviewers to nearly double our existing team, as well as new buying options and controls for advertisers that give choice and transparency over how and where ads appear on the platform. We have also updated our metrics to give more clarity and confidence about the insights we provide, including our work with 24 third-party measurement partners who can verify the value we drive for advertisers."

Google has yet to comment publicly on the IPA's call.

The IPA letter is the latest fallout from reports made earlier this year that ads by UK advertisers were appearing alongside extremist videos on YouTube. In March, Google responded by promising to institute tougher safeguards against similar occurrences in the future.

The letter also came a day after reports that Google plans to introduce more ad filters to block content containing violence, nudity and political satire by year’s end.

Advertisers’ stated concerns about digital ad safety appear to have had little effect on UK ad spending following the surfacing of YouTube’s extremist content problem. In Q1 2017, digital advertising accounted for more than half of the UK’s total media ad spending for the first time, according to figures released by the Advertising Association (AA) – UK and Warc.

As for ad viewability, UK display ad viewability rose above 50% in Q2 2017 for the first time since Q1 2016. However, viewability rates in the UK continued to trail those typically seen in France and Germany.

There’s much at stake if UK advertisers were to lose faith in digital advertising—and, specifically, in digital video ads. eMarketer predicts that digital video ad outlays in the country will total £1.38 billion ($1.87 billion) this year, a 22.2% increase over 2016. It’s also equal to 12.7% of the £10.89 billion ($14.70 billion) in UK digital ad spending forecast for the year.

—Cliff Annicelli

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