IAB’s Randy Rothenberg: ‘Tragedy Of The Commons’ Harms The Ad Ecosystem

randy-rothThe IAB creates standards for its industry but is running into a problem: The digital media ecosystem isn’t embracing those standards.

Agencies and advertisers have set viewability definitions that are all over the map. Publishers must run slow, tag-ridden ads because buyers don’t follow the IAB’s LEAN spec. Platforms advocate for alternative standards that apply only to them.

In response, P&G will require its partners to abide by common standards and create a transparent, fraud-free ecosystem, Chief Brand Officer Mark Pritchard announced Sunday while kicking off the IAB Annual Leadership Meeting in Hollywood, Fla.

IAB President and CEO Randy Rothenberg continued the drumbeat Monday by talking about the “tragedy of the commons” occurring in the digital marketing and media supply chain, which doesn’t have enough oversight and self-regulation to stop fake news sites.

“As long as you keep incentivizing the wrong behavior, the wrong behavior will continue,” Rothenberg told AdExchanger. “The wrong behavior in this case is noncompliance with industry standards. You need them for efficiency, effectiveness and real safety with how the industry operates.”

In his speech on Monday to conference attendees – predominantly composed of ad tech vendors and publishers – Rothenberg encouraged them to work together in the same way they have in the past on AdChoices, ad blocking, the video VAST standard and other issues.

While P&G’s Pritchard called for enforcement of current standards around viewability, third-party measurement, fraud and transparent contracts, Rothenberg added a new foe to the list: fake news.

“There’s a linear connection between fake news and those trolls of digital marketing and media: click fraud, fraudulent nonhuman traffic, consumer data breaches, privacy violations and the sources of ad blocking,” Rothenberg said. “Each represents the failure of our supply chain.”

He decried the ease with which people can exploit the current supply chain, as illustrated by 23-year-old Cameron Harris, who made $5,000 from Google by making a fake news story go viral.

Rothenberg encouraged IAB members to stop their inaction. He advised them to audit their customer and supplier lists for any unsavory partners that might be responsible for fake news. Then they must turn off those players.

“As senior executives in brands, agencies, tech companies, platforms and publishers, you have a responsibility to keep our commons safe, secure and flourishing,” Rothenberg said.

The argument for standardization and a clean supply chain isn’t just a moral one, but a financial one. In the IAB’s early days, the organization reduced hundreds of ad formats to a handful, leading to an explosion in ad spend.

“The original universal ad package was the foundation of a $60 billion industry,” Rothenberg said.

Rothenberg rejected the argument that the constantly changing, innovative nature of digital advertising defies standardization. Common standards and a clean supply chain are fundamental, he said.

“Throughout history, standards have been necessary for innovation,” Rothenberg said. “It gets the low-value stuff out of the way so the creators can create.”


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