A Firestorm, Financial Collapse -- And A Way Out?

My article last week, which referenced a study published by Group M, caused a minor firestorm. Joe Mandese, our “Capo di tutt'i capi” here at MediaPost, must be happy, as the label above the Online Spin reads “Controversy Served Daily.” Boy, did I succeed…

Don’t get me wrong. The immense number of shares and comments via social media, on the page itself and via email directed to me, doesn’t mean I want to take anything back. But I will say that Group M, of all agencies, probably has the most lucid approach to fixing the many problems that led to the report in the first place.

But (and you knew, there would be a but!) Group M by itself can’t actually address that many of the issues, powerful and innovative as it is. And that’s due to two reasons. First of all, it is but one (ginormous) player in a market flooded with the less-than-great-stuff heavily mixed in with the good stuff. And secondly, because its well-intended (and actually pretty smart) strategies to help clients overcome some of the digital woes are flying somewhat in the face of strategies deployed by other WPP (sister) entities aimed at buying bulk and selling cheap.



I guess you could say that for those that want cheap, they got cheap, and for those that want smart, they’ve got smart. But that still means that the good will continue to suffer from the bad, and WPP continues to allow the bad to be part of the mix — just like all the other players in the ecosystem, from agency groups to publishers to middlemen to marketers.

I know that apart from Group M, there are other quality offerings out there as well. Pay a little more, and hey, presto, you’ll stand a much better chance of actually being seen by a human and delivering an impression — both in the technical sense as well as in the “impact-created” sense.

Fellow Online Spinner Dave Morgan last week asked when consumers had become commodities. He recommended that ad technology should look to HR systems rather than automating and optimizing the old cost-per-eyeballs model of reach and frequency. I think he is on to something with that idea.

If you take his consumer = commodities idea in the other direction, media sellers and buyers will soon resemble hedge fund managers more so than strategic communications planners. I have said on many an occasion that, would be the worst thing that could happen to marketing since the invention of Toilet Roll Advertising (2012 A.D.). Perhaps worse than that.

If you’ve read Harry Markopolos’ “No One Would Listen,” or Michael Lewis’ books, or seen “The Big Short,” and other recent infotainment regarding the big financial collapse, you’ll understand why. There is no other system more corrupting then a system whose sole incentive is to make the inhabitants of that system richer and richer. If you are a pessimist, you could argue that we’re hurtling towards such a system for media buying and selling already.

If you’re a strategist and solutions thinker, like Dave Morgan in his article from last week, then you’d think through the negatives and find a way to actually make the whole ecosystem better.

I am going to try and be a more of a positive thinker. It can’t hurt, can it?

1 comment about "A Firestorm, Financial Collapse -- And A Way Out?".
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  1. Mark Brown from Canvas Worldwide, May 13, 2016 at 9:07 p.m.

    Not to say "I told you so," but a few years ago I hosted a panel at a JD Power conference on Behavioral Targeting online and kicked it off by comparing Madison Avenue with Wall Steet circa 2008.  They way in which digital sellers bundle cookies into BT targets reminded me very much of what finanical institutions did with mortgages.  And, just like investors were complicting in the mortgage crisis because they did not do their due diligence with what they were buying, ad agencies and marketers are complicit here if we don't do our homework.  Programmatic and audience-based buying are easy solutions for oft-overwhelmed advertisers, but we have a responsibility to dig deeper to know what we are buying and to demand transparency.  Maarten is right, we need to tackle these issues head on as an industry, or run the risk of the system failing.  But I remain optimistic that we are collectively an intelligent bunch, and a lot more interested in the truth than our counterparts on Wall Street.

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