It's time to clean up our act
A view from Claire Beale

It's time to clean up our act

Finally the biggest advertiser in the world has woken up to the mess.

I defy you – defy you – to take issue with the following quote: "We don’t want to waste time and money on a crappy media supply chain. Instead, we want to invest in raising the bar on the creative craft to drive growth on our brands." 

So said Marc Pritchard, Procter & Gamble’s global marketing chief, last weekend in one of the most spectacular challenges any marketer will make to this industry. 

In a simply extraordinary confessional at the Interactive Advertising Bureau dinner in the US on Sunday evening, Pritchard laid out a series of advertising mistakes that P&G has made over recent years. P&G has tacitly supported a media ecosystem that is "murky at best and fraudulent at worst". Now "we need to clean it up and invest the time and money we save into better advertising to drive growth".

Pritchard certainly had a lot to get off his chest: "I confess that P&G believed the myth that we could be a ‘first mover’ on all of the latest shiny objects… we accepted multiple viewability metrics, publisher self-reporting with no verification, outdated agency contracts and fraud threats – with the somewhat delusional thought that digital is different and that we were getting ahead of the digital curve. We’ve come to our senses."

Jesus, it took a while, but finally the biggest advertiser in the world has woken up to the mess. I’m betting many of his peers are still asleep, though – so if you haven’t already, you must read the full transcript of his speech because Pritchard’s revelations say more about the toxic digital landscape than they do about P&G’s governance. 

Once you’ve got over hearing one of the world’s smartest marketing-led companies catalogue its lack of judgment, you’ll find Pritchard has backed up his words with a comprehensive plan of action that could transform our business and drive new growth. 

He is determined to adopt a standard metric to measure the viewability of online ads, use accredited third-party measurement verification so that platforms aren’t marking their own homework, introduce transparent agency contracts, ensure agencies are paid adequately for the service they provide and outlaw ad fraud by making sure any company involved in digital media is certified by the Trustworthy Accountability Group. All by the end of this year.

But the responsibility to make change is a collective one. Pritchard has put not just his neck but his career and his company’s reputation on the line. If he pulls off his plan, we all win – or at least those of us who don’t cheat will. It’s time to take up Pritchard’s challenge and institute the same level of rigour across the industry this year. It’s already February.

Claire Beale is global editor-in-chief of Campaign.