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IBM’s Ginni Rometty honored at Ad Council Dinner

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The Ad Council held its 65th Annual Public Service Award Dinner and honored Ginni Rometty, chairman, president, and chief executive of IBM. The night also raised $5.3m to support the nonprofit organization dedicated to using communications to drive social change.

Rometty was presented with the 2018 Public Service Award for her longstanding dedication to social change and progress. Throughout Rometty’s tenure at IBM, the company has developed technologies and programs that support community needs as much as they assist business needs. Recent initiatives support building a pipeline of talent to fill the nearly 16m “new collar” jobs to be added in the US by 2024 – jobs that require in-demand skills but not always a bachelor’s degree. Rometty has also empowered her teams to embrace social causes and public service at every level of the organization through volunteer opportunities, the IBM Corporate Service Corps, and impact grants.

Under Rometty’s leadership, IBM cofounded She Can STEM, a new Ad Council campaign designed to encourage young females to pursue their interests in STEM (science, technology, engineering, and math), which launched in September 2018. Rometty also serves on the Council on Foreign Relations, Northwestern University’s Board of Trustees, and Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center’s Board of Overseers and Board of Managers.

Rometty, in her acceptance speech, called for inclusivity in the tech workforce and stated that the industry should be available to everyone. “People of all skill levels should be able to work in this field…always remember that you should be able to explain these technologies,” she said.

She has also championed more women in the workforce, and encouraged more girls to be involved and trained in the sciences, highlighting Karri Mack, a 10-year-old from Baton Rouge, Louisiana, who has a genuine passion for science, and spoke to the crowd at the Ad Council event with enthusiasm about her love of science. She said she dreams of becoming a pediatrician who will one day cure cancer. In September 2018, Mack starred in the Ad Council’s She Can STEM campaign.

Other people from prominent Ad Council campaigns were also featured during the evening, including Tiarra Barrera-Hammond (Job Training & Employment/Bring Good Home), who found success as a nurse through Goodwill; Hector Adames (Gun Safety/End Family Fire), a passionate advocate for gun safety; Nikia Hammonds-Blakely (Breast Cancer Risk Education/Know Your Girls), an author, singer, songwriter, and motivational speaker who focuses her message on receiving physical and emotional healing; and Jimmie and Mindy Beall (LGBT Acceptance/Beyond I Do), the targets of workplace discrimination against gay couples and the first same-sex couple in their Ohio county to marry, who today are passionate advocates for LGBT rights.

Trevor Noah, host of Emmy and Peabody Award-winning The Daily Show, was to emcee the event, though his vocal cords were shot and he couldn’t speak, so correspondents Desi Lydic and Michael Kosta took his place. Noah was present, but only managed a Trump joke spoken through a voice-generating speaker, then waved good night.

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The evening also featured a live performance from Shine MSD, Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School students from Parkland, Florida, and Applause, a performing arts program in New York City. The event was held at the New York Hilton and raised an unprecedented $5.3m to support the organization and its social good campaigns.

Attended by more than 1,500 prominent executives from the media, advertising, technology, and corporate communities, the Annual Public Service Award Dinner recognizes the industries and individuals who support the Ad Council and its national public service campaigns. This year’s dinner was chaired by Linda Boff, chief marketing officer of GE and chair of the Ad Council’s Board of Directors.

“This year’s dinner was an uplifting and unforgettable evening that served as a reminder of the progress we make when our industry unites for social good,” said Lisa Sherman, president and chief executive officer, the Ad Council. “The Ad Council is where our shared desires for a better society transform into good ideas, ideas that confront the toughest issues facing our communities. When we come together around purpose, we continue to prove that good works.”

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Online advertising has alienated our most valuable asset – the consumer

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It’s an understatement to say things have changed since I started my career in publishing 34 years ago, and mostly for the right reasons. The industry has moved on and some of those less palatable institutional barriers have been broken down. Yet there are certain industry behaviours that are having a real impact on original content creators, and they are so often borne from preventable consequences.

In many instances, these could be negated through the reapplication of ‘guiding principles’ that have perhaps been lost along the way.

It’s time we took a look back to make sense of what’s in front

The media industry has always been a sum of its parts, with different skills and disciplines working, mostly, in partnership. There was a sense you belonged to something special, and you knew you were directed by principles honed from many years of evolving media and advertising practices.

But it’s time to face the truth: today, consumers lack trust in digital advertising. In a quest for infinite online inventory, the crucial relationship between brand and consumer – that was built on shared values and respect – has become commoditised and jeopardised, quelling any desire for users to engage with ad campaigns. How have we got to a place where advertising that lives in the online world has all but alienated its most valuable asset – the consumer?

And no matter how many smart and inspiring examples of diversification and new monetisation models we see emerging, for original content creators, a base level of advertising remains essential.

There needs to be a change in behaviour

Many promises have been made to re-evaluate advertising practices and there’s an acknowledgement that quality and context matters. However, very little seems to have moved on and there remains limited evidence to suggest any measurable change in behaviour.

I’m not here to knock the technology that has enabled so much in modern life or the dominance of social media in which many users choose to consume news. Yet there is an obnoxious disparity around ‘standards’, accountability, and responsibility, and the right to compete fairly for advertiser funds that enable and sustain the creators of original quality journalism and content.

Despite all efforts to collaborate and support the industry’s wider call for greater parity, media owners with a long-established code of conduct and complete accountability for every single item present on their site continue to be at a disadvantage. Media organisations have always been defined by their transparent policies. So how is that an organisation like Facebook – that has such an impact and influence on the industry – is able to prosper and have a significant amount of revenue derived from online advertising, without being defined as a media business, and therefore does not need to adhere to any of the policies or codes of practice that is required by others?

As long as these organisations continue to be the principle benefactors from a type of advertising purchase behaviour, they have no motivation to change. It is only when we see a promised change in the advertisers’ behaviour, that the technology businesses themselves will be forced to re-examine their practices – meanwhile they will continue to enjoy all the spoils while residing outside of the union of all other media practitioners.

Driving better standards, and meaningful returns

As media owners, we continue to value the long-established trading partnerships centred on mutually defined policy and protocol, and relationships built on trust. These values matter.

This is a call to advertisers to check this current commodity driven behaviour, to take a moment to reflect, and work with publishers, as partners. But we also need to be sure that in striving for this goal we aren’t diluting standards, and the desire to improve accountability doesn’t just find us looking to provide a definition around practices that would otherwise be deemed as sub-standard.

Within the industry, we have in place numerous compliance guidelines. The IAB has been tireless in its efforts to bring the industry together to agree on a variety of advertising technology compliance standards. But what use are these if there is no accountability and seemingly no process to enforce compliance? While other established media channels have flight checkers in place – for both creative compliance and copy integrity – with all this wonderful technology, why does it not exist online?

And what about the extent of these standards? Premium publishers operate to much higher standards than laid out by these bodies, and always have done. They are self-regulated and they are accountable. And while I strongly support the adoption of universal standards for the good of the industry, it doesn’t change the fact they represent something that is significantly less than what we can actually provide.

At AOP, we’re committed to surfacing these challenges and we are striving to find practical answers, recommendations, and examples of best practice to help cement the future of advertising and publishing. But we must all commit to win back the trust of the consumer and return to a place of integrity – and continue to succeed as an industry I have always been proud to be part of.

Richard Reeves is managing director at AOP

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‘Project Dragonfly’: Google’s rumoured censor-friendly launch in China

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It’s common knowledge that Google, as present as it is in our daily lives, does not enjoy the same ubiquity in China, and hasn’t done for eight years.

Leaked meeting minutes from the corporation, however, suggest that could be about to change.

Codenamed ‘Project Dragonfly’, the search giant is allegedly in the midst of a bid to launch in China in an iteration that would play ball with Beijing’s hardline censorship policies.

According to a transcript from a meeting led by Google’s search engine chief, Ben Gomes, ambitions for Dragonfly were to reach “the next billion” users and launch within “six to nine months”.

Gomes said that China was “arguably the most interesting market in the world today”, according to the transcript published yesterday by The Intercept, said to have taken place on July 18.

“It’s not just a one-way street. China will teach us things that we don’t know,” Gomes told staff. “We have built a set of hacks and we have kept them.

"Overall I just want to thank you guys for all the work you have put in.

"We have to be focused on what we want to enable," Gomes says. "And then when the opening happens we are ready for it."

According to the South China Morning Post, Project Dragonfly has previously been reported as the codename for a censored search app specifically for the Chinese market.

Blacklisting any websites related to human rights, democracy, religion and any other issues deemed sensitive by the Chinese government, the country’s internet censorship laws are considered the most extensive and advanced in the world.

In the meeting, Gomes reportedly acknowledged that trade wars between the US and China were causing difficulties in negotiations with Communist Party officials in Beijing, whose approval Google would need to launch the search engine.

Re-launching in China would open up a vast audience and a matched opportunity to scale its advertising operations globally, competing with Asia’s ad tech giants such as Alibaba, Baidu, and Tencent.

Away from China, however, the move – which would be contributing to China’s hardline stance on free speech – could be seen as a far cry from the search giant’s original “don’t be evil” policy.

The reveal of the leaked transcript also comes following a reveal of Google’s efforts to cover up a Google+ data breach, which resulted in potential vulnerabilities to private data attached to 500K users.

As noted by Business Insider, side-by-side, these revelations set a worrying trend of a very powerful company acting in secrecy, and despite its efforts to appear the opposite, unethically.

Interested in hearing leading global brands discuss subjects like this in person?

Find out more about Digital Marketing World Forum (#DMWF) Europe, London, North America, and Singapore.

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Why agencies need to take the lead in ad tech transparency

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The world’s biggest advertisers have called time on the lack of transparency in digital advertising.

P&G’s ad chief Marc Pritchard summed it up: “The days of giving digital a pass are over – it’s time to grow up. It’s time for action.”

However, agencies can only go so far if they are tied into contracts and relationships with non-transparent ad tech partners. It’s time for agencies to be bolder and hold all of our ad tech partners to the highest levels of transparency.

Clients now have more authority than ever to demand transparency from their agencies. So, why then, has trust between advertisers and agencies declined in these past two years?

Shockingly, the ID Comms 2018 Global Media Transparency Report reveals that the level of trust this year is perceived as significantly lower than in 2016. Things are getting worse, not better.

Agency apathy

There continue to be heartening moves in the ad tech community. Just this month, six of the leading ad exchanges launched an initiative to help drive transparency. Rubicon Project, OpenX, Pubmatic, Sovrn, SpotX, and Telaria signed an open letter committing to offering a fully transparent marketplace for both publishers and advertisers

The truth is though, agencies still aren’t doing enough to hold their ad tech partners to account. Many still survive from taking mark-ups or kickbacks. Others are simply not determined enough to make a positive change.

But how can our clients trust us to be transparent if we can’t trust the ad tech platforms we work with?

The time for talking is over, it’s time for action. We believe every agency needs to develop its own transparency methodology for approving and working with their ad tech partners.

It’s incumbent on all of us to refuse to take a mark-up and to regularly review all our partners’ transparency in regard to data, audience, and tracking.

Let’s all be brave – and serve our clients better – by vetting our ad tech partners according to these criteria to ensure the highest level of transparency. If they don’t tick all the boxes, we all need to simply refuse to work with them, giving our clients the highest level of transparency possible.

The devil’s in the detail

This is all about going far beyond box ticking. In fact, it’s about diving deep to make sure you have as firm a grip on your ad tech partners’ operations as you do on your own.

So, as an industry, what should we all insist on knowing from our ad tech partners?

We need to know exactly what performance data is available to pull reports, what additional data and insight is available above and beyond the standard metrics, and if there’s a simple interface or API for extracting data that can easily plug into our own agency dashboards.

For audience targeting, we should demand: the level of granularity, particularly for niche clients or B2B; how it’s sourced, particularly in regard to third party data; and the types of targeting solutions offered, such as onsite behaviour, search behaviour, AI solutions and so on.

When it comes to access to platforms, we all need to reject black box solutions by default. It’s crucial we understand the tech inside out. We need to be able to self-serve giving us full control of campaign set up, targeting options and day-to-day optimisation.

All agencies need this level of control so that it is always clear how our clients’ ads are being served. For instance, what happens if one of your ad tech partners hits the KPI early in a campaign? If you are prospecting can you guarantee they aren’t simply using your data to retarget?

Finally, every agency must demand full transparency from their ad tech partners on what tracking pixels will be placed on site, what information they will be collecting, and how this data will be used.

If all of this sounds demanding, that’s because it is. It’s time for all of us to raise out demands on our ad tech partners to deliver the level of transparency our clients deserve.

So, are you feeling brave?

Interested in hearing leading global brands discuss subjects like this in person?

Find out more about Digital Marketing World Forum (#DMWF) Europe, London, North America, and Singapore.

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