Last week, Group M released a report called “Interaction 2016," which got plenty of attention here on MediaPost. In it, GroupM shares a laundry list of issues with digital media that we have been debating here at the Online Spin and elsewhere for a very long time. Group M shares global numbers it collected concerning ad blocking, fraud, viewability and a whole range of related issues. And with regards to the growing budget share of digital media, Group M questions “the effectiveness of these investments.”
Here is one of the world’s leading media agency holding companies effectively telling us that the massive and growing digital investment is largely not effective.
It recommends not using 30-second online video spots. It tells us not to trust online video viewability, especially mobile device viewability. It tells us to be concerned about ad blocking, as the numbers range now from 25% to more than 30% of users, depending on the market. It doesn't specify these numbers by target audience, but I was at a conference where 100% of students in attendance raised their hands when asked if they used ad blockers. And these were marketing students!
The report is brutal in its clarity and honesty. What it lacks is the “now what?” I have communicated here and at every opportunity when I speak that this is not a media owner, or agency, or advertiser issue. This is an industry issue that needs to be addressed by a coalition that will set out not guidelines or recommendations, but lay down laws and rules, with teeth to police and implement them.
I read an article last week that suggested a link between the growth of ad blocking, ad fraud and crappy online advertising experiences. I absolutely believe that link exists.
When I write bogus nonsense on Wikipedia, that content is swiftly removed, if it ever reaches the platform in the first place. Wikipedia receives about 800 new entries every day in English, and 10 edits per second. There are very few paid Wikipeedsters, but somehow this ecosystem works. Why can the collective marketing industry not come up with a system that polices online advertising? Weed out the bad. Build A.I. for that, instead of messenger bots.
Sadly, agencies do not see eye to eye with advertisers. ISBA, the UK sister organization of the ANA, last week issued new guidelines for agency contracts that lay down clear rules for transparency between marketers and their (media) agencies. As recently happened in the U.S., the U.K. agencies were swift to state that this was not the way they wanted things. And just like in the U.S., now agencies and advertisers are on diametric opposite sides of the debate.
And to add fuel to the fire, there is a new media-buying approach being thrown around called "principle-based media buying,” where agencies purchase and resell large quantities of media inventory to marketers. It is yet another evolution of buying, with a focus on low cost rather than strategy and planning.
Funny thing: Group M is actively playing in this space with its Xaxis unit. Oh, the irony: while Group M has a clear view of the digital-media issues, its trading arm is actively (re-)selling the very stuff the parent deems ineffective, and in a way that further challenges transparency.