Interviews, insight & analysis on digital media & marketing

Purpose, trust and transparency will save online media

Has the industry left it too late to regulate itself – or will the new laws and regulations being introduced by governments globally actually help advertising “save itself”?

Milton Elias, Head of Platforms and Innovation at News UK; Mary Keane-Dawson, NED and management consultant; Theo Theodorou, Sales Director, Microsoft Advertising; Amit Kotecha, Permutive Marketing Director and Emily Brewer, UK Head of Publishing at Teads joined Bluestripe Media MD Andy Oakes to discuss the year just gone and what’s ahead. 

In part two of our round-table round up we explore the regulatory situation and how our expects this to evolve in the coming months and years.

If anything, 2019 proved a transient year as brands, agencies and publishers continued to feel the effects of the 2018 General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) and changes to browsers including Safari and Firefox that now block by default third-party tracking cookies. 

It has also been under the scrutiny of the Information Commissioner’s Office, which is further probing privacy issues and the future of online advertising regulation, with an update on its next steps expected early this year.

Little wonder, then, that our panel believes that further regulation is likely, even necessary, with some around the table believing that self-regulation is not fit for purpose while others fear heavy-handed regulation from a body that does not understand the industry. 

Said Elias: “It is inevitable that the government will have to legislate: we have failed. That’s going to lead to a situation whereby the government will have to intervene.” 

Kean Dawson concurred: “There seriously is a real genuine concern at government level as to what’s going on. [But] they don’t understand it. People outside our industry find it incredibly complex.”

Advertisers crave trust and transparency

The flipside, though, is all are hopeful that those who put purpose, privacy, trust and transparency at their heart will be well-placed to navigate these quickly changing waters into the next year and beyond. 

As Brewer noted: “Fundamentally, these issues are the reasons advertisers are moving from solely focusing on numbers on the platforms towards premium, brand-safe environments.”

Yet she warned that  awareness, particularly for  newer  industry executives, was critical as they don’t have the affinity with these traditional publishers, nor do they necessarily  realise the positive impact of including these great brands and their audiences in their campaigns.   “Why should they care about The Telegraph or the Guardian? It is down to us to educate,” she said.  

Theodorou added that there had been a wider shift in the marketplace. “Consumers are becoming more aware around how their data is being used, we’re in an era of fake news where [people are asking] ‘What is real any more?’ he said. 

“Having players that can come in and respect the consumer whilst providing an alternative to the other platforms is going to become more important in 2020 and beyond.”

For Kotecha, this shift requires the industry to move from third-party cookies and focus on business’s own unique first-party data to provide advertisers added-value opportunities. 

In short: the industry at large should expect more, and more stringent, regulation, but it should not wait for those rules to filter through. By taking the spirit of those mooted laws, the industry can do the right thing for consumers and build business models and working practises fit for the future.

Read part one of the roundtable writeup here.