After selling a schedule of TV ads to a sponsor, there always came a moment during which you held your breath. It was the time when the sponsor’s commercial was reviewed by the Standards And Practices folks. They reviewed the commercial to be sure that it complied with governmental and network rules about such areas as comparisons to competitors or “taste.” Any claims about a product’s efficacy had to be supported by actual research. We weren’t even allowed to present avails (the beginning of a negotiation) unless a new advertiser could pass a background (read Dun and Bradstreet) check by the finance folks.
I have no idea if those processes are still in place at my old network homes (I suspect they are), but I know that they’re not in the digital world. Marketers often wonder about the ad blocking phenomenon but one aspect of it might just be the tremendous number of scams and consumers’ wariness of all ads as a result. As a former web publisher, I always had a concern about the ads that came to our site via an ad network and I felt incredibly bad when we accidentally ran some banners that installed malware. In retrospect, there were a number of red flags on the order that we should have caught, but the desire for the cash outweighed our wariness.
It’s much worse today, given the number of “imported” pieces of advertising and advertising disguised as content most sites run. Even the best of publishers have revenue pressures that can blind them to the dirtbags to which they routinely direct their readers. One solution? Maybe the industry – publishers and advertisers – need to set up and pay for a central review board through which all ads need to pass. Call it the digital advertising Standards and Practices department. No sign off from them, no seal of approval, and the ad won’t run. Maybe not every site will take that on, but promoting it to your readers as a scam-free site might just help both readership and ad blocking.
Worth a try?