The following is an excerpt from our 2017 Ebiquity UpFront Annual Report. To access the full report, click here.

At the surface, all seems to be good on the digital front – in fact, digital ad buying was reported as topping traditional TV ad-buying in the US for the first time ever in 2016. And industry insiders are touting the success of digital in 2016 as a sign of continued growth for the channel.

“Investment in the (digital video) medium has been significant, with 51 percent year over year growth in the first half of 2016 alone,” said Anna Bager, SVP and General Manager for Mobile and Video at the IAB. “The strength of the 2017 NewFronts’ roster of blue chip media companies and inventive content creators is sure to inspire advertisers and media agencies to increase their commitment to digital video even further.”

Additionally, 2016 marked the first time that more than half of all US digital video ad dollars were traded via automation; that portion will grow another 42.3% this year to $9.13 billion. According to our recent study with the World Federation of Advertisers on Online Advertising Effectiveness, the majority of the world’s largest advertisers (we surveyed more than 50 leadings brands) are planning to increase investment in online advertising in 2017 and 2018, with half planning to spend up to 20% more year-on-year.

Trouble in Digital Paradise?

In 2017, issues surrounding digital quickly caught the spotlight and brands started to take notice. Digital ad-buying took a hit in early 2017, when major brands across the globe pulled their dollars for programmatically traded ads that risked being placed next to extremist material and other offensive content across YouTube and the roughly two million sites in Google’s display network.

The concern for brand safety quickly rippled through the industry and more than 250 companies suspended their advertising investments with Google. Additionally, Facebook faced its own backlash when it announced that it had exaggerated its “average viewing time” metric by potentially as much as 80% over the past two years.

In response to these issues, the major digital enterprises have been quick to take action with both Facebook and Google agreeing to be independently audited by the Media Ratings Council (MRC). Although a positive step, it remains to be seen if the MRC’s methodologies and technology will be able to deliver standardized measurement for Facebook and Google at scale. And while the two platforms are important – accounting for more than 70% of global online display revenue – there are thousands of other properties and sites carrying advertising that need to meet any measurement standards that come out of these efforts.

All hope is not lost, though, according to Michael Karg, global chief executive officer of Ebiquity, “anything that increases transparency and control for the advertiser is very welcome so this is obviously very positive from Google.” But by no means should the issues be left to publishers to fix themselves as Karg adds, “however, advertisers also need to improve their own digital skillset and learn how to use those controls.”

A Brand-New Approach to Digital

The shift of control is necessary for advancements in the digital realm, and we’ve already seen the tides changing. One of the first to take action, JPMorgan Chase, took charge of their digital presence by curating a ‘human-checked’ whitelist of approved sites, ultimately trimming down their ad placements on about 400,000 websites to a mere 5,000 websites.

The results, according to Kristin Lemkau, the bank’s chief marketing officer, have been surprisingly favorable for the company. They have reportedly seen little change in the cost of impressions or the visibility of its ads on the internet. Many brands will likely follow JPMorgan Chase in ensuring brand safety, although perhaps at varying scales.

The thing to keep in mind is that along with the efforts of digital publishers to guarantee safety & effectiveness, advertisers new drive for transparency is only the first step. Effectively determining the most significant KPIs and then understanding the true results of these efforts will take some time, but will ultimately be a stronger assessment of the effectiveness of advertising investments long-term.

With programmatic and transparency at the forefront of advertiser’s minds throughout 2017, it’s not a surprise that the industry is quickly uncovering answers to help demystify the challenges of online advertising. The successes seen by companies such as JPMorgan Chase in bringing transparency and clarity to the online advertising investments will become more widespread and will help drive continued investment in digital advertising.

Seemingly, the industry is ready for this growth and confidence remains high in online advertising. In fact, 76% of advertisers are willing to accept the challenges it presents and are eagerly seeking out new ways to utilize data to drive online advertising. [read more about that here].

Read the full report on Online Marketing Effectiveness.