I am delighted to be with you today and to be opening my first annual conference for ISBA as President. I am especially delighted to be the first female President of ISBA and I am absolutely confident that I will not be the last, but the first in a long line.

At this time when the UK market and advertising landscape are going through unprecedented change whether it’s Brexit, fake news or trust in communications generally, the need for a robust, effective and expert ISBA has never felt greater.

ISBA itself is evolving, and we are growing membership; but more critically, I do believe we are now setting the agenda and creating a framework for advertisers to operate within that is robust; shaping the industry and not passively accepting the changing environment around us.

A year ago, in the wake of Marc Pritchard’s thought-provoking and challenging speech, and with encouragement from our Council to "be bold", we launched a new manifesto with the primary aim of helping to create a transparent, accountable and responsible media marketplace, and putting this as a priority on the agenda across the industry.

Since then, under Phil Smiths leadership, we’ve made significant progress. Many of our members and a number of our media agency partners have already adopted the ISBA Media Services Framework. 

You all will be aware of the extensive Times coverage around the placement of brand advertising in certain media throughout this past year. There has been constructive but challenging dialogue, which many of you have been involved in with YouTube and other media providers.

And it is clear that Google has been listening, from its recent announcements: video by video vetting of Google Preferred, higher monetisation thresholds, regular Transparency reporting, and follow through on third-party verification.

These changes have come about at least in part as a result of ISBA and its members speaking to partners at a local level, and these local partners engaging their global enterprises. Whilst there is more to play for, these are substantial steps forward.

Where advertising appears is important, and of increasing importance are independent, transparent audience measurement and viewability standards for brand advertisers. This will be critical to the confidence of advertisers investing in all media. This played out just last week at the World Mobile Congress, where many views were expressed and all agreed about the importance of sustaining brand safety, through when and where advertising is placed.  

Never has the brand health impact, as well as commercial return from investment by advertisers in any and all media, been more important.

Whilst we do feel at ISBA that we have had an impact in our areas of priority over the past year, we recognise there is much to do and, like any organisation we have been reviewing our priorities for the year ahead.

To this end, and fully aligned to our manifesto to champion improved standards in digital media to create a transparent, responsible and accountable market which serves the needs of advertisers…we have agreed four priorities to guide our activity for the coming year:

  • Digital accountability: We will constructively challenge major media tech businesses to ensure they provide a suitable environment for brand advertising
  • Viewability and verification: Independent measurement of commercial audiences for digital and agreed standards of viewability that meet the needs of brand advertisers, where we should acknowledge the efforts of Unilever to push for higher standards
  • Agency/Client alignment: Closer alignment of commercial interests between agencies and client (others may call this transparency), through contract frameworks, remuneration and incentives
  • Data privacy: Providing the best advice and guidance for advertisers on GDPR and ePrivacy

We’ve defined these four priorities because despite the progress we have made, the environment for advertisers hasn’t got any easier and people’s trust in advertising has undergone a long-term decline and public attitudes to the industry are now less positive than towards other sectors. 

We, as advertisers, media owners, and tech companies; working with agency partners, must determine the big issues and work together to address them.

As I said earlier, there are concerns over where brands appear, over viewability and measurement and over ad fraud and these concerns have been growing in noise and visibility. They are growing because they are real. In the political sphere, as can be highlighted by the DCMS Fake News Inquiry, we are all keenly aware of increasing calls for digital regulation.

I agree with Jon at IAB that technological disruption has brought huge benefits and allows access to even more customers, which is great both for them and brands. However, we cannot be complacent about the public trust upon which our industry depends and, as I mentioned earlier, it is this trust that is in decline.

We need to face into the regulation discussion, and to date the UK’s robust self-regulation system is admired and copied worldwide. The UK has been a world leader in its system of co-regulation, a judicious mixture of statutory and voluntary regulation, through Ofcom and the ASA. And it is beholden to us all to ensure it is properly funded and fit for the future.

Today, with a new Chair of the ASA and the opportunity of a strategic review imminent, we as advertisers and the industry more widely, should be prepared to look hard at the current structure of the ASA, which is still largely funded by advertisers spending in the traditional media of print and TV. Is that funding model sustainable and appropriate when we consider the volume of advertising now taking place on digital platforms? And is it ad placement, viewing and traceability in the digital arena that is bringing the greatest challenge to how advertising is perceived?

As advertisers who largely fund this self-regulated model, we should actively engage with all other parties in setting the future of industry self-regulation of advertising.

We should take accountability for our role in shaping and adopting the self-regulation framework and ensuring the quality and effectiveness of our advertising.

The theme of this Conference is accountability. We as advertisers should take accountability for the impact and effectiveness of our advertising on customers, society and to the long-term health of our business and those we support.

We said last year that advertisers must lead the change, which is what we have sought to do here in the last year. We had seen this start to happen in the US with the work of the ANA, and most crucially, with the intervention of Marc Pritchard, whose speech to the IAB in January 2017 sent shock waves through adland.

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Written 06th March 2018
By Elizabeth Fagan