Digital Marketing Is Starting To Grow Up -- Finally

Could this be the week that digital advertising found itself at a turning point, and hopefully made the right call? Although it was mostly a US-based initiative from the ANA, 4A's and IAB to have acceptable ad formats established, accepted and adhered to through self-regulation, this has an impact on all of us. Digital marketing is by its nature global, and the UK is way out ahead as the digital marketing capital of Europe.

The group of internet advertising bodies wrote to the Coalition for Better Ads to effectively show support -- and not sure if it's me reading between the lines -- give the body the green light to be the focus, perhaps even the regulatory body, for better advertising.

The coalition has always been strident in pointing out that ad blocker adoption rates have increased as advertisers ended up passing on their messages in ever more annoying formats. Whether it's our old friend the pop-up, a video ad on autoplay, or a flashy bright square taking over a mobile screen, we all know what the annoying formats are. So does the Coalition. It makes a point of regularly pointing out which ads are in its top 5 rogues gallery. They know it, we know it, advertisers know it and the ad-blocker industry knows it. Now it looks like the coalition is finally getting the support it needs.

Interestingly, we today have what in my mind amounts to a complete overstatement of the ad-blocking issue. Probably keen to get a headline, is claiming GBP3bn is to be lost in the UK to ad blockers this year because adoption rates are at 39%. The truth is the IAB UK has them at just over one in five, and even then, when it analyses its research even more, it turns out a lot of those surveyed think their anti-virus counts as an ad blocker, or manually blocking pop-ups. So the organisation is pretty clear that it is probably under one in five, and the rate has plateaued over the past year or so. 

That's not to suggest it's not an issue, but it's probably half the issue a headline-grabbing piece of research is suggesting.

The point here is that the plateau in ad blocking has accompanied the Coalition for Better Ads banging the drum for less intrusive formats. At the same time, responsible publishers have been eradicating those annoying formats (-- ... feel free to join in any time) and some have blocked the blockers with a polite message that they can only see content if they disable their tech.

There's also news today that Oath has become the largest publisher to be certified by JICWEBS for brand safety. Earlier in the week the UK government warned Facebook and the social giants that they could soon be deemed publishers too, and so held responsible for the content they monetise. 

Sounds to me, then, that this is the week we finally got a concerted effort to make digital marketing as acceptable as possible for publishers, advertisers and most importantly, consumers. I don't think this is something the industry needs a huge round of applause for because it is self-serving and has only come after several years of awful practices had started to hit publishers in the pocket and seen advertiser budgets wasted. 

That this general trend is happening, however, is only good news.

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