For the first time in more than a decade, the standard terms and conditions for internet advertising, first developed in May 2001, updated in 2010 and 2018, will be significantly overhauled. The effort by the Interactive Advertising Bureau, the Association of National Advertisers and the 4A’s will begin work next month with the creation of a joint task force that they say will include all stakeholders, including advertising agencies, marketers, publishers, and ad tech companies.
“While the previous work in this area remains the industry standard, over a decade later simply too much has changed for us to not revisit,” said David Cohen, chief executive of the IAB. “Having worked on previous iterations, I know the road ahead will not be easy, but it is important work that has to be done.” Cohen said developing a contractual framework that ensures the vital infrastructure needed to “streamline the digital advertising buying process” is part of the focus as the news terms are drafted.
The standard terms and conditions act as a guideline for digital ads, helping to confirm that sellers are speaking the same language as both brands and advertising agencies. Cohen hinted in December during a podcast appearance that he believed the time for a “refresh” to the rules was in order. Cohen told the Digiday Podcast that the IAB conducted a survey of its members last year, asking what they believe needs to fixed or changed. But while there is agreement on taking on the project, Cohen predicted it would be a “pretty gnarly process” as buyers and sellers tweak the language that covers not only what the standard provisions of contracts will include, but also more thorny topics such as payment terms and cancelation options.
“I think just realistically it’s going to be more than a year to get this done,” Cohen said. “So it will be a 2023-24 initiative,” he said on the podcast.
As the effort gets underway next month, the three trade groups have offered no exact deadline for when they hope to complete the process, however. The industry has been using Version 3.0 guidelines since they were released in 2009, with a few minor updates through the years. The rewrite effort includes both advertisers and ad agencies, with trade groups for both agreeing with the IAB that plenty has changed since the last update five years ago.
“The scale and complexity of today’s digital media transactions requires an updated foundation of contractual terms and conditions that underpin this large marketplace,” said Bob Liodice, chief executive of the ANA. He said advertisers are “very supportive” of “collaboratively revisiting” the standard terms and conditions used for digital ads.
Marla Kaplowitz, who heads the ad agency-focused 4A’s, echoed that. "The industry has a legacy of collaboration to ensure that the buy side and sell side align on best practices and standards for an effective digital advertising ecosystem,” she said in a statement. “While there have been updates, it's time to revisit the approach and ensure we collectively address evolving needs in the marketplace.”