A UK ad industry trade group has written a public letter telling Facebook and YouTube to get brand safety right

In the past two decades, Google, Facebook and YouTube have been amongst the media giants that have played a pivotal role in the media space, and have revolutionised how users consume content online.

Today, paid online advertisements are entirely commonplace.

However, with the inadvertent placement of paid ads beside extremist content on sites like Facebook and YouTube, the success and profitability of these companies may be in jeopardy.

Revelations from the Guardian illustrate the severity of the issue, with huge companies such as Pepsi and Walmart pulling their advertising from Google’s video sharing platform, following the purge of paid advertisements from YouTube by high profile companies in Europe.

According to the Financial Times, Google has been in talks with its advertising clients since the start of the year. However, the Institute of Practitioners in Advertising (IPA) in the UK has grown impatient with the slow progress being made.  

The IPA has taken an unconventional path, and publicised a letter its general director, Paul Bainfair, wrote to Google and Facebook in the UK, Campaign reported. The letter calls upon the importance of issues like brand safety, cross-platform video audience measurement, and video visibility.

“The purpose of this letter is to formally call upon Facebook and Google YouTube to work with us to deliver global gold standards in online advertising verification and cross-platform video advertising audience measurement”, said Banfair.

To address brand safety concerns, the IPA is “calling upon Facebook and YouTube to become signatories to the DTSG Good Practice Principles which will entail the independent verification of their brand safety policies and processes within six months”, the letter states.

To address the plight that companies are facing in terms of video audience measurement and video visibility, the IPA advises that the companies meet the industry standards for cross-platform audience measurement, and use the UK as a trial run for 100% viewability that is independently verified for both online and mobile video advertisements.

Campaign reported that while Google refused to comment, it stressed its goal of maintaining a positive relationship with the IPA. A Facebook spokesperson was quoted as saying that the company is in dialog with the IPA “on these important topics”.

An edited version of Paul Bainfair’s letter published on Campaign is as follows:

I am writing today to ask for your urgent action on a number of key points.

As you are well aware, online budgets have exploded from around 16 per cent of total spend (2007) to over 40 per cent today. The internet has evolved into a complex ecosystem with online video now established as an important component of internet time. YouTube and Facebook being the two biggest channels.

The IPA and ISBA represent the UK’s biggest advertising agencies and advertisers and in our judgement urgent action is needed to bring the safety, measurement and viewability of your online video up to acceptable industry standards.

The purpose of this letter is to formally call upon Facebook and Google YouTube to work with us to deliver global gold standards in online advertising verification and cross-platform video advertising audience measurement.

We want you to use the UK as one of the largest, most advanced and concentrated digital media markets in the world as a test bed to drive best in class verification and measurement for brand advertising.

And we are calling for you to make the following action points:

Brand safety

The UK has the most robust online brand safety initiative in the world in the form of the Jicwebs DTSG. And yet it has also witnessed the most damaging press coverage for brands in light of this subject.

We are calling upon Facebook and YouTube to become signatories to the DTSG Good Practice Principles which will entail the independent verification of their brand safety policies and processes within six months.

Video audience measurement

Recently published evidence derived from the Databank of IPA Effectiveness Awards concludes video advertising, both on and offline, to be the most effective brand-building form.

We are calling upon Facebook and YouTube to meet standards of independent industry-owned audience measurement such that cross platform video audience measurement can be achieved.

Video viewability

The basis of video advertising brand building is that the advertisement is viewable by a human. The greatest growth rate of video viewership is on mobile, dominated by two businesses.

We are calling upon Facebook and YouTube to use the UK as a test bed for delivering online and mobile video ad supply that is optimised for 100 percent viewability and which can be independently verified.

As to next steps, we would be very happy to meet with you both individually, or together to discuss how we can progress these points and look forward to your constructive and speedy response.

I cannot emphasise enough, the importance of this request.