The Media We Trust by Conor Mullen

Posted on March 31, 2017 by in News

There’s a scene near the end of Raiders of the Lost Ark where Indy asks the government official, Major Eaton, when he can have the aforementioned Ark.

“We have top men working on it right now.”, Eaton responds.

To which Indy asks ‘Who?’

“Top Men” is the curt reply.

And so it is with the problems of YouTube’s ad controls and Facebook’s fake news.

There have been umpteen articles in the last couple of weeks about brands being damaged by appearing near questionable content on YouTube. There’s talk about transparency, viewability and audience accuracy with independent measurement.

Let’s be clear; this is nothing new.

When P&G’s CMO, Marc Pritchard stood up at the IAB’s Annual Leadership Summit stating we have “a media supply chain that is murky at best and fraudulent at worst”, the industry knew what he was talking about but most were in denial.

Then the news broke about ads appearing around the wrong content on YouTube.

We can debate on whether this is a watershed moment; all will change, or nothing at all, but fundamentally, it all boils down to trust. Trust in content, trust in context, trust in delivery and trust in measurement.

Jason Kint, CEO of Digital Content Next (DCN), an American trade association representing online publishers, wrote an open letter to Pritchard, saying the members of the association were committed ‘to earn your trust and work with you to bring transparency and authenticity to the digital advertising ecosystem.’ In it, Kint outlined that its members know first-hand that both brand value and trust are hard to build but easy to destroy.

The era of Web 2.0 delivered ‘citizen journalism’, user generated content and blogging (I personally have more social accounts than I can remember passwords for).

It created behemoths in Google and Facebook and everything changed at such a phenomenal rate that everyone just accepted the metrics. Facebook then tripped a number of times in 2016 – over reporting video metrics by considerable levels, amongst others. Demands for independent measurement were issued. Better metrics on viewability, non-human traffic and accurate audience targeting were required.

These have been issues that have existed for years in the ‘murky’ web.

The thing is, not all the web is murky.

There are established media companies who have a record in producing and publishing content in a brand safe, trusted environment that avoids all the murkiness, fraud and bot traffic. No doubt they are probably boring too. These are the companies DCN represent and there are many others in many countries.

But there’s a problem- there isn’t that much of this content – and that reduces scale.


The theory behind buying online advertising across Google and Facebook is that you can buy at scale and programmatic technologies are supposed to allow buying this scale efficiently.

But, if you want viewable ads, you will reduce the amount of scale by significant amounts.

Quantcast undertook a study on the availability of viewable impressions across 5 billion ad impressions and discovered that inventory with viewability above 50% reduces the amount of inventory the marketplace by a massive 80% (and 50% is the MRC standard!).

Viewability above 75% reduces the availability of online ad inventory by over 95% – this means that the ad liquidity in the web ecosystem is drastically reduced and that just doesn’t suit certain interested parties.

When you add in ‘trusted environments’ and ‘viewed by humans’ that availability reduces even further – have you ever wondered why a network can’t tell you where your advertisement appeared?

RTÉ has recently produced research, part of which included the trust of the environment in which the advertising appeared. I know I can be accused of MRDA (ie Mandy Rice Davies Applies), RTÉ’s online properties came out strongly.

The point is, it all revolves around trust. Brands build trust.

There are questions to be answered certainly in terms of measurement for online advertising and what are the right measurements. Technology can bring enhancements if developed properly, but a new measure every other week just adds confusion. There is so much fragmentation that it is inevitable that gaps will appear. Standards will need to taken onboard by everyone. Not just the chosen few.

This will only work, if everyone is measured and measured with the same metrics.

Fox Network Group, Turner and Viacom have established a new group called OpenAP. Its premise is twofold: alignment of offerings and help to navigate audience measurement. The group says that a “truly independent measurement” as opposed to “proprietary, walled-garden, self-governed reporting” will be delivered. No media company should be measuring its own homework.

Maybe Dr. Jones could make some recommendations.

Conor Mullen, Commercial Director, RTÉ Media Sales – Digital
M: +353872524543 | E:

Conor has been in sales and marketing for over 22 years and has most recently worked in the mobile and media sectors. Conor is Commercial Director of RTÉ Digital, the division responsible for the delivery of on-demand content to audiences of RTÉ, the Irish national broadcaster. He has commercial responsibility for the development of RTÉ.ie, RTÉ Aertel, RTÉ Player and RTÉ Mobile.  A graduate of Trinity College, he joined RTÉ in 2005, having previously worked for Independent Newspapers, Vodafone and Xerox.