The World Federation of Advertisers has issued a call to action to the industry we all represent. It’s asking for ideas on six topics, which will be evaluated prior to the Global Marketer Week event in Lisbon, Portugal at the end of March.
Per the announcement: “We believe that cross-industry collaboration is critical to making progress and we’re keen on working with partners, who we know are equally interested in making the industry a better place, to resolve challenges. Shortlisted proposals will be discussed by the Media Forum and ultimately voted up or down according to the extent to which they deliver against the needs of the global client community, based on set criteria. The proposals receiving most support from the membership will be pursued by WFA, with a view to making them officially endorsed ideas and best practices.”
The six areas for input are:
1. Eradicating ad fraud
2. Ensuring strict brand safety protection
3. Increasing media transparency throughout the supply chain
4. Addressing walled-garden Issues
5. Improving the user experience
6. Enhancing cross-industry partnerships and collaboration to drive growth
As you can see, these are all easy topics to discuss. The question is, what will an “officially endorsed proposal or best practice” actually do?
You may have heard about the book “Zucked: Waking Up to the Facebook Catastrophe,” since its author (and current Facebook shareholder) Roger McNamee has been making the rounds on TV and radio. The book is a stunning “indictment” of Facebook and its founder Mark Zuckerberg. Think Bob Woodward’s “Fear,” but about Facebook and our industry. Think Jon Mandel’s speech at the ANA in 2015, and what impact that has had on the ad industry, from pitchapalooza to in-housing.
If “Zucked” tells you anything, it is that making money at any cost is still very much rife in the (digital) advertising industry. And although Roger McNamee believes that Facebook can still end on the right side of history (he specifically says“Facebook” and not “Zuckerberg”), because it is a commercial enterprise designed for survival, it's undoubtedly true that if Facebook is the way it is (per the book), the rest of the industry has a very, very long way to go.
And that leads me to the six points from the WFA above. They are not addressing the real issue. Yes, fraud, brand safety, transparency and walled gardens are huge issues. But they are the symptoms of what is really wrong in the industry.
I have called before for marketers and advertisers to adopt a code of online conduct, outlining how marketers ingest, manage, use and store the data they get from their consumers. Most marketers have transparent policies on being a good corporate citizen on things like water usage, non-GMO ingredients or diverse and fairly paid workers. A transparent code of conduct for being a good corporate digital citizen should be an integral part of their practices.
I believe that if the WFA wants to see change, and have that be meaningful, visible and verifiable, its members should develop and implement a good corporate citizen code. Each member should publish its stated approach, and annually publish a progress report, just as companies are now doing for water, non-GMO, CO2 or diversity. With that, the industry can start to address causes and symptoms because, as we all know, (s)he who holds the purse-strings…
There you go, WFA. My submission to you. Sorry I did not use your suggested template.