NEWS11 April 2018

Lords report calls for action on ‘murky’ digital advertising

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UK – The House of Lords has published the results of its investigation into UK advertising, calling for the industry to commit to standards in a ‘murky’ digital advertising marketplace and urging the government to stay aligned with the EU on data protection post-Brexit.

Abstract image representing digital advertising

The report published by the Select Committee on Communications, ‘UK advertising in a digital age’, outlines the findings of the Lords inquiry into the advertising industry.

The aim of the inquiry was to examine the future of the industry and investigate the role of policy and practices in helping it to maintain its position.

Among the recommendations put forward in the report was a call for the digital advertising industry to take greater steps to self-regulate through independent bodies such as the Joint Industry Committee for Web Standards (JICWEBS). The report calls for regulatory third parties to be assigned more power to put in place and enforce ‘robust industry standards’ on the measurement of effectiveness and third-party verification.

The report also tackled the issue of the dominance of tech companies Facebook and Google in the digital advertising ecosystem, calling for the government to gather evidence on whether current competition law is adequate for today’s digital economy. Additionally, it said the Competition and Markets Authority (CMA) should conduct a study of the digital advertising market to investigate whether it is working fairly for both businesses and consumers.

Lord Gilbert of Panteg, chairman of the committee, said: "Digital advertising has quickly become the most significant form of advertising by spending. But the market for delivering digital advertising to consumers is notoriously ‘murky': businesses which buy advertising services don't know how their money is being spent, whether their advertising is being displayed next to content which is obscene or which supports terrorism, or whether their ads are being viewed by a human being at all.

"The consumer’s experience is also poor as they may be bombarded with clickbait, or their personal data may be exploited without their knowledge. To restore the public’s trust in advertising as a whole, the industry must commit to adhering to proper standards."

Ahead of the General Data Protection Regulation coming into force from 25 May, the committee expressed concerns over the exploitation of users’ data without informed consent and urged the government to ensure that the UK stays aligned with the rest of the European Union on data protection law after Brexit. To do this, the report recommended that the information commissioner’s office (ICO) has a position on the European Data Protection Board post-Brexit.

The report also recommended the introduction of a creative industries’ freelancer visa to ensure the flow of talent into the advertising industries is not affected when the UK leaves the EU.

Lord Gilbert said: "The UK’s global success relies on an international workforce. These workers provide the cultural, creative, digital and languages skills which enable the UK to win advertising accounts from multi-national companies for global campaigns. As the UK leaves the EU, the government must develop an immigration policy that works for advertising businesses."