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If you are like me – and enjoy working in media – it’s not hard to feel, in such a dynamic and evolving marketplace, we are living in important, if not defining, times.

But in 2019 there’s more reason than ever to believe this year will be pivotal. This thought was brought home to me at the ISBA conference where Commander Clarke Jarrett, head of the Metropolitan Police Counter Terrorism Command, took to the stage to show us the role advertisers and media can play in the fight against terror.

ISBA’s audience was gripped and - from the feedback I received - inspired to react by Commander Jarrett’s talk about the horrifyingly sophisticated way terror organisations recruit members and how brands should act to ensure they avoid inadvertently funding their efforts.

Ultimately, Jarrett’s message is clear: we need to act on our own sense of responsibility – whether we are advertisers, agencies or publishers or occupy any other niche in the digital media supply chain – and ensure money is not ending up in the worst places and funding illegal or inappropriate content and activities. It can be misdirected thanks to the complexity and confusion surrounding parts of the process and, worse still, where’s there’s money, there’s the spectre of fraud.

For me, it’s positive that all parts of the market are acting on a growing sense of responsibility – along with the support of organisations like ISBA - and this will help shape the media industry of the future.

But more can and needs to be done to convert intent into action. We need more businesses to step forward and get on board and this is the right time to do it. There is the opportunity to build on the work the industry is already undertaking, on a global basis, such as the partnership between JICWEBS and TAG, to ensure we have the right, independent, industry standards for measurement and, therefore, accountability. In addition, we are increasingly shining a light on more and more parts of the digital media supply chain. For instance, ISBA’s programmatic supply chain study, being produced in partnership with the Price Waterhouse Cooper and the AOP, will give more insight into what has rapidly become the dominant method of trading digital display. 

Digital media has always relied on research and insight to educate the market but now we are in a new era of co-regulation. Decisions taken this year will shape the media industry for years to come.

Only last week, the UK Government issued its proposals to regulate online and social media platforms, in the form of the Online Harms White Paper, a joint proposal from the Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport and Home Office. Although the internet is not the wild west of media, as UKOM’s Ian Dowds recently reminded us on these pages, the White Paper is set to be a landmark in this era of media co-regulation.

The Government is proposing a regulator to handle the direct enforcement action and it will then have to define a duty of care that internet companies must provide. That regulator must also define a code of best practices that internet companies can follow to show that they are fulfilling that duty of care.

At ISBA, we want to shape the future co-regulation of advertising to ensure it’s fit for purpose. The White Paper offers one such opportunity. There is a 12-week consultation period on the proposals and, rest assured, ISBA is actively engaged with the Government to represent the needs of advertisers.

But, we would like to hear more voices. It goes back to the point about personal responsibility which Commander Jarrett talked so powerfully about. We all have a duty to understand the digital supply chain better and ensure that we know exactly where the money in media is going.

Now consumer data has become the bedrock of marketing, as P&G’s Marc Pritchard reminded advertisers at the ANA media conference in the US, we have the responsibility to protect the data we have and use it for purposes of serving consumers with better media and advertising experiences.

If more of us – from advertisers to publishers and agencies - take responsibility to account for our own business and exactly where the money in digital is going then we are in the right place to shape regulation and make the most of that regulation – for good of the industry – when it gets implemented. If we can prove we are responsible as an industry, we will get the co-regulatory environment we need to help us ensure digital media not only continues to thrive, but is a real force for good.

Steve Chester is the director of media for ISBA