LONDON: Digital advertising is under the microscope as never before, with Google and Facebook facing criticism from all quarters on their record on transparency and the industry struggling to reach a consensus on the best way forward.

Last week, Sir Martin Sorrell, head of WPP, was again taking the battle to the digital giants when he dismissed as "spin" Google's claims to have reassured advertisers following a report in The Times that brands could be funding extremism through programmatic advertising.

At an IPA event, reported by Marketing Week, he declared that "brand safety is a massive issue" and, responding to Google's UK managing director Ronan Harris, argued that "the fundamental issue in my view is that you [Google] have to take responsibility for it as a media company."

And, he added, it isn't as though Google doesn't have the necessary resources to address this.

"CMOs have been banging on about this for ages," Sorrell said. "We have been heavily supportive of this. In my view, not supportive enough as it hasn't been effective. Whether you say you're doing it or not, you're clearly not doing enough."

Before the event, Harris had told Marketing Week that Google was tackling issues such as ad measurability and brand safety, but added: "It's not down to just one company to set the agenda or set the standards – it's got to be a collection across media owners, creative and media agencies, and importantly the advertisers themselves, as to what they want to see."

That sentiment was echoed by the chief marketing officer at Santander Bank. Speaking at the ISBA annual conference, Keith Moor observed that the mere fact the industry was still talking about the challenges around brand safety, ad fraud and transparency indicated the need for advertisers themselves to "get actively involved" in the various groups attempting to address these problems.

"We need to get more literate about this, not just individuals but teams of people, because this is the future – it's not going to change, " he said.

Data sourced from Marketing Week; additional content by Warc staff