Dmexco 2017: P&G’s Mark Pritchard Takes On Ad Transparency

Digital media is now the leading form of advertising, and such leadership entails big responsibilities in terms of transparency and brand safety, was the consensus at this year’s event in Cologne.

Dmexco 2017: P&G’s Mark Pritchard Takes On Ad Transparency

by Michael Nutley

Posted on 09-20-2017

As any Spiderman fan will tell you, with great power comes great responsibility. That was also Marc Pritchard’s opening point when the chief brand officer for the world’s biggest advertiser Procter & Gamble gave the closing keynote speech on day one of Dmexco 2017.

Pritchard started by talking about how digital media had overtaken TV as the leading form of advertising, accounting for $200 billion worldwide. Such leadership brings with it big responsibilities, he said, in terms of brand safety and transparency–the third big issue at this year’s conference next to AI and transformation. And he described how, when P&G had started looking into the viewability of advertising at the start of the year, the digital supply chain had been revealed as “murky, non-transparent, and even fraudulent.”

“As little as 25% of the money we spend in media actually makes it to the consumer,” he said.

Pritchard wasn’t the only speaker at the conference talking about these issues. Nigel Morris, chief strategy and innovation officer at Dentsu Aegis Network, described the current situation as a “crisis of confidence in marketing, advertising, and digital.” And Joe Zawadzki, CEO of programmatic marketing technology company MediaMath, talked about the industry’s responsibility “to hit fake ads, fake news, and fake metrics head-on.”

The Payback

Pritchard also had good news. If the industry takes on its responsibilities, he said, the result will be big rewards in terms of better customer experience, improved return on investment, and accelerated business growth.

He listed the five key actions P&G was taking “to raise the bar on transparency,” along with other advertisers and industry bodies. And he called on every other market to take part to create a cleaner, productive media supply chain, which he said, in turn, would release time and money for better advertising and innovation.

What’s more, greater transparency around advertising is already revealing aspects that aren’t working or annoying consumers, he said. Fixing these is not only saving P&G huge amounts of money, but it is also improving the customer experience.

Five-Step Programme

Pritchard’s five key actions for the industry were: adopt a single viewability standard; get third-party accredited measurement verification; demand transparent agency contracts; eliminate ad fraud; and ensure brand safety. He also gave examples of how some of these actions were paying off for P&G. He talked about how greater transparency around video viewing had revealed that the average viewing time for online video ads was 1.7 seconds, and only 20% of ads were viewed for more than two seconds.

“For too long we were flooding digital media with 30-second ads, treating it like another form of television,” he said. Instead, P&G is now making two-second ads to use online and, as Pritchard noted, negotiating to only pay for the ads people see. But it has also accepted that ads in social media are annoying, so it’s now working with partners such as Snapchat, Instagram, and WeChat to create what Pritchard called “the next generation of digital ads.”

He also talked about how third-party verification had shown that the company was hitting too few people with too many ads too many times.

“Excess frequency is one of the biggest sources of waste in our industry,” he said. “And it really annoys consumers.”

The solution, he said, is to combine looking at the world from a customer perspective with next-generation programmatic techniques, to deliver ads to consumers when they’re ready to buy. P&G is also working with ecommerce platforms, using the fact that their customers are uniquely identified to achieve similar results.

But, perhaps, the most startling example Pritchard gave was when he talked about brand safety. He said that since the company had taken a hard line on only working with trusted publishers in order to protect its brands, it had cut more than $100 million in advertising but had still hit its revenue targets. This, he said, had led to the conversation moving away from brand safety and, instead, focusing on finding quality content to advertise against. The result will be better content for consumers, and also for advertisers to advertise against.

Finding Support

Elsewhere among the sessions, other people welcomed P&G’s stance. Jerry Daykin, head of global digital media partnerships at Diageo, noted that brand safety had always been a big issue for the drinks giant due to the regulations surrounding its business, but he agreed the issues Pritchard raised concerned the entire industry.

“His call to arms has been seen as a challenge for agencies, but it’s also a challenge for advertisers,” he said. “We accept we have to be part of the change as well.”

Platforms such as Facebook were also keen to reassure marketers that they were working hard to address these issues. Carolyn Everson, vice-president of global marketing solutions at Facebook, said that nothing was more important to the company than having marketers’ trust.

“We’re listening to marketers, consumers, and publishers, trying to establish confidence,” she said. She also highlighted the announcement at Dmexco of the new controls Facebook is introducing around brand safety and third-party measurement and verification, including doubling the size of its content review team, working with further third parties around brand safety controls, and joining the Trustworthy Accountability Group’s “Certified Against Fraud” programme.

In his session, Pritchard acknowledged the efforts being made by the industry to solve the problems of transparency and brand safety. He said that he felt the work was “60% finished,” and that he expected it to be completed by the end of the year. But he also warned against complacency.

“We must all stay diligent to get this done, and to keep standards high,” he stressed.

Topics: Experience Cloud, Insights Inspiration, Digital Transformation, Digital Foundation, Analytics, CMO by Adobe