The Times of London yesterday led with the story that brands are inadvertently funding terrorist and other illegal or unethical entities through advertising placed on their web content.

The leader column in particular was especially direct, stating:

“Thanks to the failure of technology companies and media agencies, British firms have found themselves advertising on extremist sites.” 

Yet the unconscious funding of extremist organizations by advertisers is only one facet of a digital advertising industry that requires substantial reform – other facets include fraud and viewability. Multiple analyses show that online advertising continues to underperform due to these defects.

The significance of the current challenges demands an industry-wide effort from all players in the ecosystem.

Firstly advertisers should invest in the right resources (whether in-house or via partners) and governance processes to protect the value of their brands and drive the effectiveness and efficiency of their marketing spend.

Second, the global media agencies should leverage their buying volumes with publishers, internet platforms and technology providers to reward those who guarantee brand safe environments and provide robust and effective performance metrics. Individual advertisers have limited influence with the giants of the industry, but the agency groups have the combined power of their client base to extract higher standards.

Finally, publishers and internet platforms should continue their investments into technologies and processes to provide an efficient, effective and transparent media environment.

The sort of misuse of brands’ advertising as exposed by The Times will only be rectified by a concerted effort. It is time for all players to come together and develop solutions for the digital marketing ecosystem. The current shortcomings should not be accepted given the large amounts of capital being invested in the space.

The advertiser associations have invested a lot of energy into initiatives into combating ad fraud and promoting a brand safe environment, such as the Trustworthy Accountability Group, but it will take collective leadership from the combined weight of all stakeholders to enforce the change that is needed. The time is now.