Are Better Metrics How You Restore Trust In Advertising?

There was a curious report put out this week by ISBA which, as per its own headline, was heralded as the ad industry realising it has to do more to restore public trust in advertising.

It was foreshadowed by one of the executives involved in the report writing a piece in Mediatel pointing out that the public's number one complaint about the industry is being bombarded with ads. Then came the release of the Improving The Public's Experience report. 

The strange thing is that only the first of the five points openly addresses the public. Point one is about making advertising "welcome" in people's lives. This directly speaks to the goal of not bombarding people with ads but instead checking that they are going to the right audience and making sure they are not seen too many times. 

Then we have another four measures to bear in mind that might have an impact on the public, but only a vicarious one.

These include ensuring that campaigns are run to be effective rather than efficient, so effectively the overall outcome is placed over the cost. This sounds like common sense -- and it might perhaps lead to advertisers paying more for prime sites and cutting down on the bombardment -- but as mentioned earlier, it seems a vicarious way to achieve the report's goal to improve the public's trust in adland.

Then we have a point about visibility of advertising, so clients know where their advertising is going, plus a point about then measuring a campaign properly.

Sandwiched between these points we have a call to ensure that advertisers ask themselves whether content is in the best long-term interest of a brand and its relationship with the public.

Again, this could slip in as potentially being squeezed into improving the public's trust in advertising. However, the way the five points are framed, only one has the public in its main sights and another only mentions the public in dispatches.

For a campaign by ISBA labelled as restoring the public's faith in advertising, it just seems a little strange.

Take a look for yourself at the five points in the report and they seem mainly framed around advertisers taking control of their advertising, knowing where it is going, prioritising effectiveness (impact) over efficiency (cost) and measuring the overall impact of campaigns better. Do they mention the headlines in the marketing and advertising press?

As mentioned, some of this could be beneficial to the public. Cutting down on waste will surely have a positive impact on budgets and also reduce the total number of ads the UK public is exposed to. But it seems that the gain is coming through the back door, and the points the reports raises are really about boosting the effectiveness of campaigns through better visibility and measurability, rather than setting out to improve the public's experience with -- and thus trust in -- advertising.

Maybe this is far too picky a point, but I just don't see how the new steps address the way they have been headlined by ISBA and sites reporting on them.

For me, ISBA has already hit the nail on the head with its five-point call to arms, which it announced last year at its annual conference.

These include ending the bombardment of ads, respecting privacy, reducing retargeting and showing how ads can help drive social change. 

These are great points, and perhaps to be fair to ISBA, the five-part plan unveiled this week has the practical steps advertisers can take to deliver on the goals announced last year.

Maybe this is the carrot. Address these five points to make campaigns more accountable and not only will you get the most out of budgets, but you'll also bombard the public a little less?

As it stands, however, I think anyone looking at the report and the coverage surrounding it will be wondering how advice on better measurement and accountability in campaigns will improve the public's levels of trust in advertising. 

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