Marketers have always carefully calibrated their messages and the audiences they wanted to reach, and, for most of advertising’s history, the process was pretty straightforward. Marketers used content as a proxy for audience, and worked with known and trusted entities to carry out their plans. They bought space, delivered materials to publishers, and ads appeared. That was the process for the first banner ad, too, for AT&T on Wired Magazine’s website on October 27, 1994.
While the intent of marketers has remained consistent as they have embraced digital channels, the process of executing advertising is a lot more complicated. In the intervening 23 years since that first banner ad, hundreds of companies have arisen intermediating tried and true relationships between marketers and media. These companies claim to improve the process for marketers by identifying and reaching audiences without the context of content, using modeling practices honed in financial markets.
But, there are some fundamental differences in the two markets. Financial market regulators would not tolerate, for example, the sort of haphazard standards that are applied to digital media. Any financial institution caught selling fake stock, for example, would suffer severe consequences.
The same doesn’t appear to be true in digital advertising. The result is that the ecosystem is rife with fraud and unviable inventory that essentially robs marketers of their ability to know what they are buying, who they are really reaching, and how to measure their progress. Without that knowledge, they cannot build a sustainable digital advertising practice that performs for them, and that more broadly drives the economy.
For more insight into the financial cost and loss for marketers, read this report: Poor Quality Ads Cost US Marketers $7.4 Billion in 2016
And attend my deep dive into the topic at the Forrester Consumer Marketing Forum in New York, April 6-7.