There has been quite a kerfuffle about digital ad spend in the last year. It stems from the one area in which digital was supposed to reign supreme: accountability. There was, it turns out, a fair amount of advertising that was being placed without actually being seen by a living, breathing consumer. If it appeared on an excel spreadsheet somewhere and ticked a box, it was, despite being quite possibly invisible and impossible to track, a positive metric (that would in time drive up the cost of the advertising online).


What with all that ‘non-human’ internet activity out there too, it doesn’t fill the holistic advertising agency (who want to spend the money where it works best rather than where everyone else is spending it) with confidence when thinking about where to recommend a client spend their hard-earned marketing budget.


It got to the point that, at the risk of the industry being undermined, the Internet Advertising Bureau advised that trading ceases on viewable impressions at the start of this year. They updated their guidelines in April, to say that both standard display ads and large canvas ads “must be in the viewable portion of an internet browser for a minimum of one continuous second to qualify as a viewable display impression.”


The one continuous second standard was a step in the right direction but there are lots of things that need to change to improve the overall trust in internet advertising. If agencies are going to justify the spend versus traditional, proven, methods of advertising, the media owners will have to up their game as will those who set the standards (including the IAB in the UK), and, perhaps most importantly, the supply chain will have to be made more accountable.


We utilise the whole media landscape and will continue to recommend digital advertising when we think there is a genuine benefit to our clients, but we will continue to do so only after we have exhausted our concerns over whether the advert will stand a chance of getting seen.