Procter & Gamble leads demand for more creditable online media advertising metrics

Marc Pritchard, P&G's Chief Brand Officer

Marc Pritchard, P&G’s Chief Brand Officer [Pic courtesy]

Procter & Gamble (P&G), the world’s largest advertiser by revenue, recently fired a shot across the bows of agencies and online media at the Interactive Advertising Bureau’s Annual Leadership Meeting in Florida.

P&G’s Chief Brand Officer, Marc Pritchard, told the group that the days of giving digital a free pass are over. It’s time to grow up. It’s time for action.

Pritchard laid out three criteria for publishers and agencies before they’ll get any more of his $7bn P&G budget.

  1. A standard “viewability” metric;
  2. Fraud protection;
  3. Third party verification of metrics.

“P&G has vowed to no longer pay for any digital media, ad tech companies, agencies or other suppliers for services that don’t comply with its new rules” according to industry commentator Ad Age.

P&G brands diagram

P&G brands are wide-ranging and have huge online advertising budgets

He announced that P&G was adopting the Media Ratings Council (MRC) standard and would expect all its agencies and media suppliers to follow them before the end of the year.

The good news is that a single viewability standard is much needed. But the MRC thresholds for viewability are on the lighter end of the spectrum defining display ad impressions as “viewable” if at least 50% of pixels are on-screen for at least one second, and video as viewable if at least 50% of the player is on-screen for at least two seconds.

It has clarified that the definition of viewability is pretty dire if this is the standard P&G is insisting on.

The big issue is verification. Are advertisers really going to persuade Facebook and Google to open their analytic black boxes and let advertisers see what’s going on through third party verification?

The online advertising industry is essentially two companies: Facebook and Google that are, respectively, two-and-a-half and one-and-a-half times the size of P&G, in financial terms.

Marc Pritchard’s claim that this supply chain is “murky at best, and fraudulent at worst” is a sign that advertisers are finally starting to question the optimistic promises that were made about the value of metrics in digital media.

Pritchard also spoke with apparent frustration about the enormous amount of work his teams had put into monitoring the different viewability approaches of Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, Snapchat, Pinterest, YouTube and others.

Again, the implications for B2C and B2B marketers are enormous. If P&G – the biggest, B2C advertiser in the world – can find itself on the receiving end of sur-commissions (undisclosed rebates on media buying), it’s clear that any company could also fall victim to secret deals.

Careful scrutiny of media contracts, commissions and the procurement of production companies look set to be a focus for all advertisers from this point onwards.

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