Pritchard's transparency rallying cry 'will go down as seminal moment' for marketers

Procter & Gamble chief marketing officer Marc Pritchard's recent rallying call for greater transparency in digital advertising was the topic on everyone's lips at the ISBA Conference in London today.

Marc Pritchard: was speech a trigger for radical change?
Marc Pritchard: was speech a trigger for radical change?

Speaking at a panel session, ComScore’s EMEA vice-president of advertising Martin Bromfield said that the industry owed a debt of gratitude to Pritchard after his speech in January.

Bromfield said Pritchard's intervention was powerful "not for coming out with anything particularly new – in fact, it was blindingly obvious – but the very fact that it’s come from such a powerful figure in one of the biggest ad spenders in the world, that carries a huge amount of weight.

"I think now that we are going to enter into a transparency phase of digital, and we’ll look back at that speech he gave in January as a seminal moment."

While there has been a certain amount of consensus on Pritchard’s assessment of the problems facing the digital landscape, commentators have varied on whether the impetus is with publishers, agencies or advertisers themselves to take up the mantle.

Keith Moor, chief marketing officer at Santander, said marketing should learn from other sectors and be proactive in tackling the threats it faces.

"I work in an industry, banking, which is subject to fraud and scamming, and this is the same," he said, "but that industry itself has taken it upon itself to address that, and that’s what advertisers need to do.

"We need to get people more actively involve in the groups that have been put together, and we need to get people more literate."

His message was backed by British Gas’s director of brand marketing Margaret Jobling. She said that while media agencies had a "duty of care" towards their clients, but called for marketers to get educated about where their adspend was going.

"What you get is what you ask for… We’ve got a big job to make sure we understand the market."

Progress moved in peaks and troughs, suggested Pete Robins, founder of Agenda 21 and chairman of the IPA's digital media group - and we're approaching a peak right now, he believes.

View or don’t view – but there is no 50% view

At a session on viewability, Alex Tait, Unilever’s media director for UK and Ireland, reiterated the FMCG giant’s commitment to 100% viewability for digital ads.

"We only work with vendors that work with our high standards of viewability," Tait said. Turning to the Media Rating Council which operates a 50% viewability standard, he contended: "Think about a display ad where 50% is in view. If your logo isn’t part of that or message our position is that it’s not a high enough standard."

Tait said there was an "amazing opportunity" to drive a "sea change" in the area of transparency and that new leaders such as ISBA’s Phil Smith and the IAB’s Jon Mew represented a step in the right direction. Smith’s speech to the conference at the start of the day was "hitting a good cord", Tait said.

Tui’s head of digital marketing, Chris Armond, later questioned whether the industry’s struggles could be partly down to an unhealthy attitude to profit.

"Is it fair to think the profit motive is at least partly responsible for the huge change in our media landscape?" he asked. "Profit drives innovation and reinvestment, but the the challenge sometimes comes when profit making tips into profiteering."

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