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Customer-obsessed marketing

The Trust Crisis in Advertising

Jim Nail
Principal Analyst
September 23, 2016

Facebook's admission that their video viewing numbers have been inflated for two years is one more shoe dropping in an ongoing breakdown of the relationships between advertisers, agencies and media companies in the advertising ecosystem. Coming after the ANA's work on transparency, and the unresolved issue of fraud in the programmatic ecosystem, this points to a larger, more fundamental problem in the advertising industry.

I won't try to diagnose them all (my colleague Sarah Sikowitz did a good job on the agency transparency issue on her blog). And I won't even go into the fact that the agencies didn't challenge these bogus counts. 

But I have a word of advice for the digital industry: stop obsessing over bits and pixels and clicks (Oh My!). I've been in digital for 20 years and by now the industry should have learned that no matter how readily available this data is, it is meaningless relative to what advertisers really want to know: is my message getting through and having an impact? I may sound old fashioned, but in contrast to these irrelevant, spurious, and potentially inflated data, I'll take a good-old exposed/unexposed ad communication/awareness/attribute association/purchase intent lift survey any day.

True, I give up the individual-level data the digital prides itself on. But if the data is this weak and subject to manipulation, it is at best an inaccurate view of ad performance and likely to be downright misleading.

So, digital marketing colleagues, stop being digital marketers. Become marketers. Shift focus to the true goal of influencing consumers…of building an emotional connection with a brand…of driving real business results.

If you embrace this challenge, maybe the industry will get the innovation that is so desperately needed to stop slavishly trying to port offline ads into the online world where they don't really fit. Maybe the industry will create new types of ads and new ad models that consumers won't avoid and block…and that marketers will feel confident enough to pay for the value they deliver.  

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