Viewability is still the number one concern for brands, which are putting pressure on the digital media ecosystem to reform and to embrace greater transparency.

That’s a key finding from WARC’s Toolkit 2018 survey of more than 600 marketers on both agency and client side from around the world.

Issues include the billions of dollars being lost globally to ad fraud; the absence of industry-wide viewability standards; the shortage of impartial, third-party campaign measurement and verification; the rising use of ad-blocking software; and a lack of transparency in the media supply chain.

According to the WARC survey, both agency (45 per cent) and brand (49 per cent) respondents cited viewability and accurate measurement as the top industry issues offering cause for concern when drawing up marketing plans for the coming 12 months.

And 30 per cent of respondents expect digital spend to be cut if these issues are not resolved.

“2018 will be pivotal to the ongoing drive by brands, media owners and the ad tech industry to ‘clean up’ and address the challenges facing digital advertising – viewability, brand safety, measurement, transparency – as they reassert control over media contracts, investments and partnerships, to ensure they are maximising ROI,” said David Tiltman, Head of Content, WARC.

Already this year adtech vendor Sizmek has declared 2018 the “year of transparency” and is offering more visibility around costs in programmatic campaigns.

The report spreads the onus of responsibility across tech vendors, publishers and brands — which need to assess and agree on “the level of risk they are willing to accept online, and recognising that by prioritising cheap placements they may be exacerbating the problems.”

According to the survey, 51 per cent of brands believe there is now a crisis of trust between brands and media agencies. This opinion is shared by agency-side colleagues: 52 per cent of those working at media agencies agreed with the statement, as did 57 per cent of respondents from creative agencies.

A high profile example of the breakdown of a brand-agency relationship is the ongoing legal stoush between Uber and mobile agency Fetch Media. The legal action stems from a contractual disagreement over who has a duty to prevent ad fraud.

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