This year we have a five-point plan being announced to deal with a massive drop in trust in advertising. At the conference it was announced that research has halved since 1992 from nearly half of the population trusting advertising to around a quarter today.
I'm not always convinced by the word "trust." One of the points unveiled by the ISBA, working with the Advertising Association and Credos, was that more needs to be done to increase the public's trust in data privacy because there is a lingering concern that people just don't know what data sets are used to serve them targeted advertising.
it's a good point, and it's hardly surprising. Just take a look at Facebook and Google, the two forces that comprise the duopoly that dominates digital marketing. Facebook is in the dock in the EU and the U.S. over alleged privacy failing, and Google has gone a step further as the recipient of the first major fine from a data watchdog, France's CNIL, since the introduction of GDPR.
So, privacy is a huge issue and it cannot be overlooked. However, when you look at the rest of the five point plan it strikes me, at least, that acceptance or tolerance is interwoven with trust.
The majority of the rest of the five point plan deals with issues that are all about annoyance. ISBA and its partners realise that people are fed up with being bombarded with adverts, all too frequently with the same adverts and by messages that spookily follow us around, retargeting us based on a previous online action.
Hence, the groups believe more advertising should adhere to rules set out by the IAB and Coalition for Better Ads so they do not get in the way of the online experience and don't keep bombarding an internet user with the same, repeated messages.
This, of course, doesn't deal with trust, it's about acceptance, it's about not bothering people to the point where they go 'banner blind' or even consider downloading an ad blocker.
Brands and their agencies can do a lot more here, but they need to work with publishers. Brands can make a decision on whether to engage in retargeting and they can also frequency cap, but they need publishers to play the game and not cram their pages full of intrusive ad windows. Just visit a local newspaper's mobile site and you will instantly see how bad this can get when a publisher prioritises short-term income against long-term user experience.
As for trust, there isn't a great deal a brand or its agencies can do, other than ensure that their own databases are GDPR-compliant. Sure, they can work with partners who claim to be GDPR-compliant, but how on earth could they ever truly know?
It's coming to a situation when the two giants of the industry are under investigation over their processing of personal information. If the biggest guys in town are being fined and investigated, how on earth does a brand or an agency know if they can be trusted to be compliant? And if the leaders can't be trusted, can the rest of the pack?
So trust is important but I think we're really talking about data privacy here, and companies can only get their own house in order and hope that others follow suit. Again, they're reliant on publishers. To begin with, they need them to not cram pages full of intrusive spots and they need the tech giants to stop giving the public cause to suspect the industry of foul play.
The duopoly might well argue they are not publishers, and legally they have a point, but let's face it -- in terms of advertising, they are where ads end up, and so effectively are publishers. They need to be more clear on granular, informed consent, and they need to build back trust with the public.
Advertisers weren't behind Cambridge Analytica, and they weren't behind the privacy failing that led to Google's fine from CNIL and Facebook's slap on the wrist from the German competition authorities.
The main thrust should be to work with publishers to make them see what they need to do to make people trust advertising more and to make going online a better experience.