WFA Sends Publishers A Listicle -- 8 Ways You Must Do Better

The World Federation of Advertisers has thrown down the gauntlet to clear up what P&G marketing boss, Marc Pritchard, has described as the "murky waters" on online advertising.

Perhaps rather ironically, considering the way that clickbait has taken over some parts of publisher operations, it appears like a listicle. However, this is a good listicle, and I believe that when that happens, a bunch of principles is considered a charter. And this charter is for all those involved in the digital marketing ecosystem, from publishers and agencies to networks and ad-tech firms.

To be honest, the list is not draconian. It's a little like a guy going up to bar and ordering a glass of wine and expecting not just a full measure but a view of the bottle, or at least the grape variety, to get a good idea that they are getting what they paid for. 

At the top of the list we have the very simple, no-nonsense insistence that ad fraud isn't tolerated and then we have brand safety being a must, alongside minimum levels of viewability.

It's interesting to see that transparency comes next, as point number four. It seems the WFA is sending a clear message that the basics of getting an ad seen by a human being on a safe site is the starting point that has to be in place before we even talk about an open and honest supply chain. It's also interesting because the WFA has thrown in a line that advertisers respect agencies' right to earn a living. It's a nod to the fact that when the big brands screw down agencies on price, it's tempting to claw something back through rebates.

Once the thorny issue of transparency is broached, we move on to third=party verification and metrics being allowed with no walled gardens surrounding technology and platforms getting in the way. 

Funnily enough, number eight -- the last on the list -- stands out as one of the most important: give customers a better experience. I don't know about you, but I find sites that rely on advertising alone almost impossible to navigate nowadays, particularly if you are on a mobile device. The Evening Standard, The Mirror and The Oxford Times are particular favourites of mine to underline how trick ads appear when you go to scroll, forcing accidental click-throughs. Reading a page on one of these sites becomes like a game of tag as you try to get to the bottom of the page without clicking on ads that keep making the text you're reading shift up and down. It's a horrendous experience. 

it stands out because the WFA is claiming that ad blocking is growing at 30% per year. That figure sounds a little high to me as the IAB UK claims the figure for the British market has been stable for the best part of the last year.

The point remains, however, that poor user experiences do nobody any favours. Readers are frustrated, articles go unread and advertisers get in the way of experience with any click-throughs almost certainly being chalked down to accidental navigational errors. 

So there you have it. The eight principles could be summed up as the world's advertisers telling the digital marketing industry to stop being so rubbish. When an estimates $900bn worth of annual advertising spend tells a subsection of the advertising industry it really needs to improve, I think we can safely say those who want to stay on the right side of media planners will welcome the move and do all they can to show they adhere to the principles laid out.  

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