“We have a media supply chain that is murky at best and fraudulent at worst.”

That quote has rattled around the marketing industry all year. Marc Pritchard, Procter & Gamble’s chief brand officer, took the stage at IAB’s annual leadership event and delivered what Marketing Week’s firebrand Mark Ritson called “the biggest marketing speech for 20 years”.

In response, the IAB last week announced a new Gold Standard initiative that is aimed at clearing up the murky media supply chain to create a more sustainable and transparent model.

Some of the biggest digital media publishers including Facebook, Oath, Google and News UK have already pledged to adopt the three initial principles of the Gold Standard initiative:

1. Reducing ad fraud by implementing the ads.txt initiative

This will be addressed through the implementation of the ads.txt initiative on all sites selling programmatic digital advertising. Ads.txt stands for Authorized Digital Sellers and gives full transparency over who is authorised to sell a specific sites inventory. Without it, buyers are left open to being ‘spoofed’.

According to an article on Business Insider, “spoofing encompasses the variety of ways ad buyers can be tricked into paying for space they're not getting. For example, spoofers can buy cheap ad space, from a low-quality site, on an exchange and then falsely list it as space on a premium site — like, say, CNN.com— at a higher price. The ad in question will never run on CNN.com, though.”

Ads.txt means buyers of digital ad space can check to ensure the inventory they’re buying is being sold by reputable and approved sellers and reduce the potential for ad fraud.

2. Improving the digital advertising experience by adhering to the IAB’s LEAN principles and the standards set by the Coalition for Better Advertising

Right…this is two birds with one stone. First up, the IAB’s LEAN principle. In their own words, the IAB believes in an ad funded internet so they developed a LEAN principle to address the prevalence of ad blocking. Having undertaken their own research, they found that 15% of adults are using ad blocking software so they wanted to find a way of making digital ads better so people wouldn’t want to block them.

If you’re wondering, LEAN stands for light, encrypted, ad choice supported, non-invasive ads. You can see why they abbreviate it, can’t you?

The Coalition for Better Ads (I wish they’d abbreviate to COBA) developed a set of standards to improve the experience consumers have when viewing ads online.

This came from research involving more than 25,000 people which set out to identify the ads that fall beneath a threshold of consumer acceptability. 4 out of 6 types of desktop web ads and 8 out of 12 types of mobile web ads fell below the threshold.

So…anyone agreeing to following the new Gold Standard can never use the following 12 “bad” ads:

Bad Ads

3. Increasing brand safety by working with JICWEBS

JICWEBS (yes, another abbreviation) is The Joint Industry Committee for Web Standards in the UK and Ireland. Catchy.

Signatories to JICWEBS have to go through an independent certification process to show that their policies and processes follow best practice that reduces the risk of unsafe advertising online.

As part of the Gold Standard, IAB members will either become certified or, if they already are, continue to have their policies and processes verified.

What does it mean to media owners?

Following the IAB's announcement of the Gold Standard, the Managing Director of Oath UK, Nigel Clarkson, tweeted to state that any client or agency should be questioning media owners on whether they’re part of the Gold Standard.

Clarkson -tweet 

Oath, who became the biggest digital publisher in the UK following the acquisition of Yahoo by Verizon, have just gained full achievement of JICWEBS DTSG seal of approval for brand safety.

CAB spoke directly to Nigel to get his take on the Gold Standard initiative and what it means to Oath.

He stated that "as an industry sector, digital media has lost a lot of trust based around some of the bad actors in the system" and confirmed that, as an IAB board member, Oath are "very willing supporters of the industry's Gold Standard charter".

We asked Clarkson why it’s important for Oath to be part of the Gold Standard from the perspective of agencies and brands.

"Everyone in our industry that wants to provide the best, safest environments for advertisers is signing up to this standard. Agencies and brands can look to this as their guide as to who makes that commitment to them. Trust and transparency are core values of Oath and achieving the JICWEBS DTSG standard for all our products is another step in demonstrating that commitment to our customers."

So, whilst the current media supply chain may well be “murky at best and fraudulent at worst”, it’s clear the industry leaders are taking Marc Pritchard’s words at face value and taking the necessary steps to change it.