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The Coalition For Better Ads: A Big First Step Toward Quality Creative

Congratulations to the IAB and the formation of the Coalition for Better Ads, announced at last week’s Dmexco conference, in Cologne, Germany. The rapid adoption of better ad-blocking technology, and the resulting shockwaves sent through the industry, led the industry to put together this serious initiative to improve ad quality.

As Marc Pritchard, P&G’s chief brand officer (and a coalition member), recently stated (PDF): “The people we serve are voting with their fingertips, and we need to read and heed the signals. Too much of our advertising is unwanted, uninteresting, uninspiring, and therefore ineffective.”

I wholeheartedly support the quest for improving the ad experience. As someone who has spent an entire career evaluating and measuring the impact of ads, I know the long-lasting power that great creative can have in resurrecting, repositioning, and building brands. As creative quality improves, it floats all boats in the ecosystem: Publishers win by protecting their viewers from bad ad experiences; advertisers win by enjoying the benefits of more impactful and effective consumer connections; and, not least importantly, viewers win by discovering more ad experiences that they choose to watch, participate with, and even share. 

Of course, the effort won’t be without challenges. Many ecosystem players still think it’s a business only of reach and weight, and that quality is an unimportant afterthought. But the days of pushing out more and more content without a creative assessment are numbered. Bad ads are increasingly likely to be avoided or not viewed at all. Major publishers will need to resist the temptation to take advertiser money and bend the impending new rules. Advertisers must ensure their ads will not only meet a quality standard, but also still continue to meet brand objectives.

To have a real impact, Facebook, Google, AOL, and other major publishers, together with advertisers, should adopt formal creative standards and measurement practices as rigorous and well-defined as their policies for consumer privacy. Creative policy groups within these companies need to be formed, and together with the new coalition, help define the objectives, rules, and, most importantly, measurement guidelines to move the industry forward. Just as viewability standards addressed fraud issues, the coalition needs to deliver concrete expectations and action steps. While governments around the globe may not yet step in to regulate creative standards, they may not be far behind.

It will be important that viewers believe this is a credible effort and not seen as paying lip service to a real problem. Consumers have already voted their preference, with an estimated one-third of pageviews now being blocked by ad-blocking technology, so the quality improvements need to be obvious and meaningful to convince consumers to retreat from their ad-blocking ways.

The industry’s effort comes at a time when viewers are exerting unprecedented control over what ads they choose to watch and when. Now it’s up to the advertiser community to deliver on its quality promises, where viewers will remain the ultimate judge. The Coalition for Better Ads represents a monumental first and necessary step.

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