The adtech industry is comprised of plenty of moving parts involving the digital tools and analytics software used to direct advertisements to individuals and engage specific target audiences. Tech giants ruling this space are facing public scrutiny for illegal and questionable practices and are under immense pressure to clean up their act. Due to the sophisticated technology and the restricted access to details, conversations about introducing an ethical code of conduct that’s universally understood and adopted by all involved in adtech are underway with transparency and accountability being the founding principles.

Transparency

A lack of visibility and truthfulness is a longstanding issue in the advertising industry for both consumers and brands alike. In the internet era and mobile boom, an onus is placed on the platforms to explain their technology and other resources leveraged in order to digitally engage audiences, but unfortunately, this isn’t always the case and adtech administrates often exploit businesses without their knowledge. The Guardian's lawsuit against Rubicon Project, alleging the ad tech vendor did not disclose fees it levied on advertisers looking to buy the newspaper's online ad inventory, is arguably the largest movement toward increasing transparency industry-wide in terms of disclosing how finances are spent through the media supply chain. In addition to budget queries, companies are also raising concerns tied brand integrity with advertising on YouTube, Facebook, Google and other online platforms. There is no control nor visibility into where adverts will be showcased and, therefore, brands are wary about the possibility of it appearing next to inappropriate or misleading content that does not reflect their values. With brand-side marketers and agencies rallying together for more transparency from these large platforms, demand is on them to open their doors.

Accountability

Pressure is constantly being placed on the ad tech industry to make ethical choices that benefit clients and consumers, yet a code of contact is not enforced and therefore, a large belief is that the digital supply chain needs to be overhauled in order to rebalance the ecosystem and respect all parties. In the meantime, advertising leaders are taking it upon themselves to due diligence. Procter & Gamble, the world's biggest advertiser, announced it is reviewing all media contracts this year with a goal of exerting greater control over the quality of its media strategy and ultimately creating better advertising to drive growth. Rival Unilever has already set stricter guidelines, and following suit is L’Oreal, Bank of Scotland, McDonald's, among others.

The digital ad ecosystem has largely been built with major platforms operating in silo and reporting metrics back to their advertisers, whether that is tied to campaign, inventory or audience data, and any tangible proof kept guarded. According to the analysts Pivotal, Google and Facebook combined account for nearly three-quarters of all digital advertising in the US. In the UK the two have more than 60% of digital advertising and 90% of all new digital spending. A couple years ago feathers were ruffled when Google released an infographic report indicating over 56% of impressions served across Google’s display advertising platforms are not actually viewable, and following a wave of adbots trickling in to skew results and cheat advertisers out of financials, these tech giants are beginning to bow down to brand demands and are improving their digital infrastructure through AI and third-party human checking. These mediators are said to have accreditations through The Internet Advertising Bureau (IAB) and adhere to their standards, as well as those set by the Media Rating Council (MRC). In addition to third-party verification, the reports are becoming more thorough with Google indicating whether ads served on its video-sharing site YouTube are actually viewed by a user, and for how long, alongside information relating to data collection, aggregation, viewable impressions, related viewability statistics and General Invalid Traffic (GIVT) across desktop and mobile for each integration.

In addition to brands, members of the public are becoming more wary of ad technology platforms and how they’re extracting personal data and infringing on their privacy. These concerns came to the forefront a couple months ago as Facebook and Cambridge Analytica were facing a class-action lawsuit accused of misusing personal data of more than 71m people to develop “political propaganda campaigns” in the UK and the US. Europe has taken strives forward to prevent these issues by introducing and enforcing General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR). Under the GDPR companies will have to obtain consent from users to process their personal information and those who ignore this will become subjects to serious penalties. Moreover, the customers have the right to demand the removal of their accumulated data from any database.