Picture: ISTOCK
Picture: ISTOCK

There has been significant noise globally about the pressure that both print and digital publishers are facing. Platforms such as Google and Facebook are increasingly taking the bulk of adspend, both locally and abroad. Newly appointed head of the Interactive Advertising Bureau (IAB) SA’s Publisher Council, Marc du Plessis, considers it his mandate to make local publishers aware of new revenue opportunities and, importantly, to convince local advertisers and agencies to invest their money locally and become aware of the value this will bring to their brands. The IAB is a member-driven organisation that promotes digital growth.

Du Plessis, joint CEO of Spark Media, says adding to the challenges facing local publishers in the current operating environment is the issue of fake news. Fake news, he says, is generated for two reasons. The first is to shape or change opinion, which is usually for political purposes and aimed at highlighting stereotypes. “This is about ‘hacking the news’,” he adds. In the second instance, fake news is monetised and posted for commercial gain.

Du Plessis is intent on educating advertisers about the roles they play unwittingly in the generation of fake news when they allocate budgets in open channels.

He explains that from the Publisher Council’s point of view, advertisers need to be made aware about where and how they spend their money in the open market. Izak Minnaar of the SABC has volunteered his time in this regard, Du Plessis says, and will be investigating the regulatory aspects involved in the dissemination of fake news. IAB members have the reach to make an impact on the frightening effects of fake news and to educate users to be more sceptical, he says.

Closely linked to this is the issue of journalistic integrity. While there is no silver-bullet solution to embed the idea of integrity in the industry, Du Plessis believes the Publisher Council can encourage its members to instil a sense of pride and passion in their content producers and train them about their responsibilities – to themselves as professionals and to their readers, both in SA and around the world. “Journalistic awards are a big incentive here as a means to showcase great work that is grounded in integrity and accountability,” says Du Plessis. He mentions five pillars of journalistic integrity that publishers are urged to link to their content: truth and accuracy, independence, fairness and impartiality, humanity, and accountability.

Brand safety is an additional area of focus for the IAB, particularly in terms of members’ websites. To start with, the IAB has employed a communication expert to focus on quality content and the education of members regarding brand safety. Du Plessis challenges agencies to educate clients and to make them aware of brand safety issues in open markets. “I’ve seen many violations of brand safety online that brands themselves are not aware of as the space has been purchased programmatically,” he says.

Du Plessis has plans to introduce a ‘Brand Safe’ stamp of approval, which will give advertisers and agencies peace of mind that their brands are safe on IAB member websites. “At this stage, it’s an idea and a work in progress, but one that will certainly elevate the conversation and formalise the concept of brand safety,” he says.

The big take-out: Marc du Plessis, the new head of the Publisher Council of IAB SA, emphasises the importance of improving brand safety, educating advertisers about fake news and promoting journalistic integrity.

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