Were industry execs in the dark about ACCC DPI?


Were industry execs in the dark about ACCC Digital Platforms Inquiry?

The media, marketing and advertising industry appear to have been caught unawares with the release of the ACCC Digital Platforms Inquiry Final Report according to new research from the Audited Media Association of Australia (AMAA).

In a survey of nearly 500 industry execs, a total of 43% said they had never heard of the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission’s (ACCC) preliminary report into Google, Facebook and the Australian news and advertising sector.

As part of the AMAA’s upcoming annual Media Trust Research (full comprehensive report to be released in coming weeks), the AMAA included questions regarding the industry’s awareness of the ACCC’s Digital Platforms Preliminary Report released in December 2018.

CEO of AMAA Josanne Ryan said despite the majority of respondents considering that government regulation for global platforms is inevitable, the study indicates that a large proportion of the industry show a dramatic lack of awareness and are uninformed on the ACCC Digital Platforms Inquiry and the preliminary recommendations. These recommendations covered not only the global digital platforms, the ACCC also identified specific concerns with the complexity and opacity of the ad tech supply chain. The ACCC have now recommended, in their final report, that an inquiry into ad tech services and advertising and media agencies be held.

Of the marketers and agency professionals surveyed about the ACCC report, between May and June this year, seven in 10 had little or no awareness of it. Only three in 10 respondents had read any of the report or about it, with a quarter of marketers reading articles on it, which was twice that of agencies. 

A total of 62% of respondents agreed with the statement that ‘Government regulation of global digital platforms is inevitable’, however, 43% of total respondents indicated they had ‘never heard’ of the ACCC Preliminary Report; 49% of this group were agency respondents with 46% of these being agency senior execs and middle management.

“We have chosen to release a snapshot of our upcoming annual Media Trust Research survey early in light of the ACCC’s releasing the final report of its Digital Platforms Inquiry due to the low level of awareness among the respondents.” Ryan said.

“The industry has now had a wakeup call and no doubt the final report will be compulsory reading given there is to be a twelve-week consultation period as the government steps in to weigh up no less than 23 recommendations from the ACCC.”

Of all respondents who completed the survey, 42% were considered top executives at a C-suite, GM or MD level, 38% were middle management and 19% junior. A total of 46% of respondents are in “mostly digital roles”.

Given the ACCC is the enforcement arm for Australian consumer and competition law and in its preliminary report indicated it was shining its light not only on Google and Facebook and their impact on the media industry, but on the opacity of the whole digital ad trading system, Ryan said she is concerned at what appears to be complacency in the industry.

Ryan said the move away from compliance in the Australian media and advertising industry has been quite telling and echoes concerns the AMAA has voiced as the industry has shifted away from media audit, without any commitment to frameworks that include third party audit and validation to increase industry level transparency and accountability.” Ryan said.

“The industry currently falls short on a cohesive approach to ensuring that industry self-regulation is robust and ensures that industry standards are consistently adhered to in digital ad trading” Ryan said.

The AMAA submitted a paper to the ACCC which outlined efforts by the AMAA to drive discussion and industry wide movement on more robust self-governance including compliance to digital trading standards (with a digital certification programme proposed by the AMAA including an independent audit process).

While other countries have acknowledged the issues by working towards industry frameworks for digital trading (UK, USA, Europe), our industry has not moved towards industry wide compliance,” Ryan said.

Of those that had some familiarity with the ACCC Report the AMAA survey shows that they very clearly consider that greater transparency is needed as displayed in the table below:






Transparency on how Google & Facebook algorithms display ads and news content



Monitoring big digital platforms for anti-competitive conduct



Third party monitoring of privacy compliance



Privacy law changes to ensure consumers 'opt-in' rather than it being by default



Whether digital advertising is served to its intended audience



Monitoring of pricing for middlemen in ad trading




The leading media auditing and compliance body’s industry research included annual tracking questions and a range of other industry specific questions and was conducted by independent research consultancy, The Insights Grill.

The majority of the 498 survey respondents were media agency execs (193) and marketers (178), with the remainder made up of media owners and ad tech providers. Keep an eye out for more on the upcoming and full annual ANNA Media Trust Research.

Date: 30 Jul 2019

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