Jeff Holecko—Senior Brand Manager for Kimberly-Clark North America and a director on the AAM board—describes why a push for transparent, human, viewable impressions is key to solving some major digital media problems.
AAM: Of all the issues facing the media industry—fraud, ad blocking, viewability, measurement, automation—which is the most concerning for Kimberly-Clark?
Jeff Holecko: Fraud and viewability are my top concerns, primarily because it’s my job to ensure our brands get what they pay for and reach their target prospects. The thought of purchasing non-human and non-viewable impressions is untenable. Unfortunately, we’ve been slow to coordinate a proactive, progressive effort to holistically address the situation. We need to aggressively address bot fraud, human fraud and the black market of sourced traffic at an industry level.
Regarding automation, programmatic is necessary, and it is here to stay. For publishers, it allows for efficient yield optimization, and it allows advertisers to pay what we want for very specific target segments. It benefits the entire ecosystem, but it requires a significant amount of attention to ensure quality and mitigate fraud (human and bot). One of the safest ways to execute programmatic is working with trusted partners. This is where the strong relationships between publishers and advertisers benefits our brands.
AAM: How much progress do you think we’ve made on solving these issues?
JH: Each of the topics you mentioned are in different stages. Regarding my biggest concern, fraud, I applaud the ANA and White Ops and all the advertisers involved for shining a light on the potential scale and cost of bot fraud. I think it has further educated and motivated the advertiser community to address the topic. The formation of IAB’s TAG is also a step in the right direction. However, I think we have a long way to go in order to address digital fraud the same way we addressed circulation fraud in the early 1900s. Digital fraud is a much bigger issue.
There also needs to be much more stringent industry effort to establish human, viewable impressions as the digital currency and have proper third-party audits against those deliveries. Right now, it’s a “buyer beware” environment and every advertiser needs to ensure safety on its own dime. That shouldn’t be the case. Ensuring the safety of digital investments shouldn’t be an advantage for large advertisers only. Whether you’re spending $1,000 or $10 million in digital, you should have complete trust that you’re buying impressions that are human and viewable. We can work together with organizations like ANA, AAM, and TAG to make sure there are industry standards that are followed.
AAM: What work still needs to be done to make viewable impressions the currency?
JH: We have industry definitions of viewability. However, there are multiple vendors and multiple flavors for viewability. We even have agencies creating their own viewable standards. That’s creating issues. We need a clearer and more consistent currency standard that buyers and sellers agree to, plan on and reconcile against.
AAM: Who is responsible for solving these issues?
JH: The industry. It's going to take a collective effort starting with the ANA, 4A’s, MRC and the AAM with IAB’s TAG. It shouldn’t exclude other associations, like the MPA, because everyone sells digital regardless of your legacy media. One group isn’t going to be able to tackle it alone.
Professionally, I think the ANA and 4A’s should be driving because their clients’ investments are funding the industry. But it’s truly in the best interest of all parties to take a proactive stance to develop a trusted environment because the honest and trusted publishers’ revenue and profits are being affected by the fraud and bad actors.
AAM: With so many issues facing the industry, what opportunities are there? Especially for premium publishers that are AAM clients?
JH: There really is an opportunity to transact with trust, and that's where premium publishers benefit. At the heart of our industry has always been advertiser, agency and publisher relationships. At times we disagree, but we find compromises for the benefit of our clients and the industry. Premium partners can benefit from selling their quality content and using automation in a safe manner. There is an opportunity for those trusted publishers to create deals and packages that deliver quality human and viewable inventory. There are a lot of partners doing this today, and I think it is just going to increase. That could help turn around the declining CPM and revenue situations.
The other opportunity is for publishers to creatively help brands get in front of consumers. Publishers have amazing content and content developers. That’s a significant advantage. They can help us create content and distribute it through their channels, as well as our own. I actually think premium publishers have the high ground when we talk about transacting with trust.
AAM: How important is it to form partnerships like the ones you mentioned with premium publishers?
JH: It’s critical when we talk about transacting with trust. We can all benefit by developing joint partnerships with premium publishers to develop content and distribution strategies based on clear and mutually agreed to terms and conditions that align to our objectives and industry standards.
AAM: Could you share any best practices, pointers, advice to build more media industry trust?
JH: It has to start with the advertisers demanding change to the current situation. We need to be more vocal and involved. I would also say that we shouldn’t to recreate the wheel. As an industry, we’ve seen the current situation before and we worked through it to create trust in other media transactions. Create a tripartite structure of publishers, agencies and advertisers. Define standards, conditions and a self-governing process, so that we can agree on trusted deliverables, regulate the industry and weed out the bad players and practices.