Digital ad spend has sky rocketed over the last few years, and shows no signs of slowing down any time soon.
Maintaining this exponential growth has been of key importance for those in the world of digital media, but there are growing fears that, while spend is increasing, the quality of digital ads are not. Thus, for 2018, the focus of the Internet Advertising Bureau (IAB) is less about growing digital further and more about improving its sustainability.

The IAB frequently publishes eye-watering spend figures for the digital ad world and its H1 summary was no exception, with a reported £675 million year-on-year digital spend increase to £5.56 billion. This represents a 13.8% rise, with most of this increase driven by spiralling mobile budgets (up £655m to £2.37bn). However, these reports are paired with a rise in ad blocking, lingering problems of fraud and growing consumer frustration with intrusive formats. As digital takes ever increasing proportions of clients’ media budgets, the challenge has been to stop it becoming its own worst enemy; to keep spend growing, as digital advertisers, we need to ensure we are spending responsibly.

Accordingly, the IAB has published its Gold Standard for digital media planning, a series of best-practice initiatives that will keep digital growing in the years to come. Guidance ranges from supplier-side tech implementations to guides for creatives to ensuring brand safety. The steps include:

Reducing fraud through the ads.txt initiative: Ads.txt is a mechanism on websites that allows the owners of content to declare who is allowed to sell inventory. It means that when we see ads for sale programmatically, we can be sure that the ad we are buying is legitimate, which in turn goes some way to stopping rogue traders profiting from counterfeit inventory.

LEAN Principles from the Coalition for Better Advertising: LEAN is an acronym used to represent best practice in terms of digital ad specs: Light file sizes and strict controls on data; Encrypted; Ad Choices logo; and Non-intrusive. Together this adds up to a better user experience: ads load faster, users know why the ad has been served to them the ads are non-invasive.

Never use the 12 bad ads: There are 12 ad formats that shouldn’t be on any media plan – the key ones are pop-ups and auto-play sound-on video.

Working with JICWEBS: This is a series of principles to follow that will secure a safer environment for online advertising placements by certifying vendors and content.

All in all, these steps work towards the goal of making digital ads safer for brands to buy and better for the users they are being served to. Essentially, the key messages are around due diligence – being sure of the ads you are buying – and perspective – considering whether, as a user, you would be happy if you were served this ad in this manner.

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