HOLLYWOOD, FL: Marketers must develop common digital standards and carefully assess which firms they work with in order to help tackle the spread of disinformation, according to Randall Rothenberg, President/CEO of the Interactive Advertising Bureau (IAB).

Rothenberg discussed this topic during a keynote session the IAB's 2017 Annual Leadership Meeting. And he suggested that the rise of "fake news" can be linked back to deeper problems at the heart of the digital industry.

The first such issue involves the absence of shared measurement standards. "This every-man-woman-and-company-for-itself nonsense that increasingly has dominated our digital media business relationships is [tragic]," Rothenberg said. (For more details, read Warc's exclusive report: IAB chief chastises, challenges digital leadership.)

Such an argument builds on the views of Marc Pritchard, Chief Brand Officer at Procter & Gamble, who outlined a pressing need to clean up the digital supply chain during the same event.

Elaborating further on this theme, Rothenberg asserted that the absence of shared measurement standards effectively places a "creativity tax" and an "ROI tax" on marketers.

"It sucks up staff time and our customers' money into endless disputes over existential theories, methodologies, and even observable facts," Rothenberg said.

"Worse, non-compliance with industry standards has put us on the slippery slope to relativism that leads directly to fake news, industry mistrust, and social degradation."

Rothenberg also recommended that marketers conduct a thorough audit of the organisations they work with, to ensure they are not connected with propagating the spread of misinformation.

"This is not difficult. Simply ask your finance department to create a list of all your customer payables. Then commission a team to review the list to determine who your customers actually are, and what they do for a living," he said.

"If they're engaged in … anything else you wouldn't want your parents, spouses, neighbours, or children to know about, then stop doing business with them.

"And once you've reviewed and cleared your customers, do the same thing with your suppliers."

While this may seem like a small step, Rothenberg stated that the deep interconnectivity characterising the digital universe means the collective weight of such actions can make a tangible difference.

"This is not a vain exercise," Rothenberg insisted. "What we say here, what we do here, makes a difference ... We face a challenge that has boiled over into crisis – perhaps the greatest crisis it is possible to face.

"It is a crisis not of our industry, not of our digital media and marketing village, but a crisis of society writ large."

Data sourced from Warc