What’s the state of the digital nation?

Matters keeping the industry on its toes - from brand safety to narrowing targets - were addressed at IAB's annual event.

IAB Canada’s annual State of the Nation event came hot off the heels of the European Union’s implementation of GDPR – so the new privacy laws inevitably came up a lot.

But there were numerous other learnings from the May 30 event. The various speakers touched on the new and now of 2018, from the mainstreaming of policy in digital advertising to the tools needed in every digital marketer’s toolbox and how to tackle it all at the same time.

Brand safety needs to be better defined and explored

For the last two years, conversations around brand safety have dominated every summit and conference related to digital media. But Rachel Nysewander Thomas, SVP of operations and public policy at the Trust and Accountability Group (TAG) said there’s a lot more to brand safety than worrying that your ad is going to appear next to a potentially controversial YouTube video.

“There’s a difference between, say, concerns about brand suitability versus whether [a video or website] is funding terrorism,” IAB Canada president Sonia Carreno said on stage during her fireside chat with Nysewander Thomas.

Nysewander Thomas agreed that it’s about more than content. “We’ve found more than 30 different areas being excluded from brand safety [discussions], including viewability, ad-blocking, data protection and privacy.”

Overall, she said, “We are vastly not in agreement about what brand safety means.”

Adoption is strong, but staying ahead is another thing

It’s important to understand that there’s been adoption of programs and certifications to help advertisers and publishers, said Carreno.¬†For example, IAB Canada’s framework around GDPR has seen traction, and initiatives like Ads.txt have also become popular.

But there’s more to it than just rolling out programs, said Carreno.

“We have adoption challenges in the industry,” she said. “Despite the fact that advertisers accept programs, we need to make sure we are actually doing well with them. If an advertiser says, ‘I want you to prevent fraud,’ and you have a tool to do it, you should probably use that tool to the best of its ability.’”

She said anticipating new advancements in the industry such as blockchain will require the industry to “walk and chew gum” and stay on their toes. “We can’t wait for blockchain, because blockchain is coming,” she said.

Narrowing targets is changing expectations

Dale King, director of client services for Nielsen Media Research took to the stage to show how measuring campaigns helps to improve overall performance, and that accuracy doesn’t necessarily mean super-specific targets.

“In automotive and CPG, where advertisers have been using measurement the longest and most consistently, accuracy is much better,” she said. This was particularly true for CPG, which tends to have narrower targets. And, she added, measured campaigns tend to result in positive brand lift and awareness with moderate improvements on intent and favourability.

But not every advertiser wants to go narrow, and King said that’s okay – they just need to know what form of ad to use. “Video outperforms on narrow targets, while display outperforms on broad targets,” she explained, adding that video is driven mostly by 18- to 24-year-olds.

Overall, the majority of categories measuring their campaign success with Nielsen have seen improvements in their accuracy, said King. The main outlier was the entertainment category, which dropped nearly 25 percentage points to 65%. But there was an explanation, she said. “Up until now, the entertainment category has been very broad. In the last year, they have started to really narrow things down too.”