Advertisers from across the industry have issued a call for transparency in digital advertising following Procter & Gamble chief marketing officer Marc Pritchard's recent rallying call, Campaign reported.
The ISBA conference also heard that there should be a renewed focus on context which had been sacrificed at the expense of targeting individuals.
In a panel session with Saatchi & Saatchi chairman and chief strategy officer, Richard Huntington, and Guardian Media Group’s chief revenue officer Hamish Nicklin, Mr Huntington argued that digital advertising had become overly concerned with accurately targeting individuals above all other considerations.
He added: "The result of belief in this is that we're forgetting a whole load of things we are all brilliant at and should be using. One of them, a massive issue for news brands, is we’ve forgotten the value of context in media.
"We believe that quality of media is simply the quality of the pipe, and whether it accurately reaches someone we’ve predicted might be interested in us, rather than the whole context around the message and the brand."
A key problem was that all digital advertising was stuck in a direct response-type mindset, said Nicklin, "where the only thing that really seems to matter is how cheaply you can get your message in front of an audience," regardless of platform.
He suggested that the absurd consequences of this approach could be seen by considering what its offline equivalent would look like.
"If we apply that principle of low-cost advertising to branding in the real world, what you might get is, say, Rolex, wanting to target 'City boys', putting an ad in a urinal in a boozer in the City, because you're targeting that individual in a very very cheap way.
"Rolex would never be happy with that, but that’s what happens every single day on the internet."
But both Nicklin and Huntington raised other concerns about fundamental issues in the digital ecosystem.
"I’m concerned that we haven’t bothered building consent with consumers around new platforms in the way we did with traditional platforms," said Huntington. "There was always an uneasy truce between consumers, publishers and advertisers when it came to content and quality."
And Nicklin also warned that the drive for efficient spending meant that supposed "wastage" in how media spend is allocated was disappearing, which could have a negative long-term impact.
In a different session at the conference, Keith Moor, chief marketing officer at Santander, said marketing should learn from other sectors and be proactive in tackling the threats it faces, Campaign reported.
"I work in an industry, banking, which is subject to fraud and scamming, and this is the same," he said, "but that industry itself has taken it upon itself to address that, and that’s what advertisers need to do.
"We need to get people more actively involve in the groups that have been put together, and we need to get people more literate."
His message was backed by British Gas’s director of brand marketing Margaret Jobling. She said that media agencies had a "duty of care" towards their clients, but called for marketers to get educated about where their adspend was going.
"What you get is what you ask for… We’ve got a big job to make sure we understand the market."
Progress moved in peaks and troughs, suggested Pete Robins, founder of Agenda 21 and chairman of the IPA's digital media group - and we're approaching a peak right now, he believes.
- The NMA and its members are committed to working with the advertising industry to achieve a safe, premium digital environment for advertisers and more transparent audience metrics.