Ad tech has been selling the virtues of digital advertising since the first banner ad was published for AT&T in 1994. At the same time, some unscrupulous folks with ad-tech chops figured out how easy it is to make a quick buck by duping naïve marketers chasing the lowest advertising cost with fraudulent clicks, views and other tactics that deliver absolutely zero value to marketers. It seems as if no one is safe from this nonsense: last week we learned that even on YouTube, you pay for bot views.
Agencies, initially dazzled by the lure of being in the driver seat of something marketers wanted but did not understand, jumped in with both feet, extolling the virtues of programmatic, trading desks and data dashboards to create an aura of foolproof accountability — while, in the background, engineering not-so-transparent deals and delivery tactics.
Today marketers are getting a lot smarter. And agencies, bless them, now blame the challenges of digital advertising on the very same thing they pushed so hard to marketers: programmatic (per this article on MediaPost last week ).
Side note to
Jeff Bezos: How about a premium-priced, ad-free Washington Post offering? Call it WaPo Prime? You’re welcome.
So who is to blame for this fine mess (to quote Oliver Hardy)?
Is it the marketers? After all, they created (and continue to create) digital advertising demand, and failed to perform the due diligence needed to establish guidelines on acceptable delivery of commercial messages.
Or is it the agencies, who in their initial greed failed to protect their clients’ best interests in favor of their (the agencies’) bottom line — and
now have to find solutions for the resulting monster (ad blocking) they helped to create?
Or should the blame be placed with the ad-tech industry, for seducing us all with their wizardry without taking sufficient steps to reign in the bad and the ugly and only deliver the good?
Of course the answer is: all of the above. The more important question is now: What do we do about it?
I have been vocal before that this is not an issue for the techies to sort out alone, or the agencies building new, “clean” offerings, or marketers setting up guidelines. As this is an industrywide issue, the industry as a whole needs to come together to redraw the rules of engagement.
I do know that the answer to the challenge is NOT an arms race to combat fleeing consumers with alternate ad-tech solutions. “Gotcha” is not a strategy that will convince consumers to allow you in their lives. I say this because there are already voices saying that ads are dead, and marketers must refocus their efforts on storytelling content strategies (Nescafe is going all Tumblr — story here).
If we all pursue “gotcha” as the be-all-end-all solve, I predict it will be only a matter of time before someone develops an algorithm to rinse marketing messages from timelines, photo and video-sharing platforms and other assorted content strategy delivery tactics. And then where will we go?