Last week, we learned that foolishness was still very much part of our world, when Japanese ad giant Dentsu had to publicly admit it had treated client Toyota’s digital media transactions as a simple means to fill its (Dentsu’s) own coffers. We also heard with incredulity that Facebook had overstated the time its users actually viewed videos on its site, which was due to a fault in one of Facebook’s algorithms. Ugh, if the smartest on the planet can’t even do it… And then there was the Yahoo hack.
To further prove that we are living in the “winter of despair,” the 4As released a statement that made it mandatory for its members to follow its own Transparency Guiding Principles of Conduct, threatening to throw out (dismember?) members who don’t abide by this document. Two agencies (MediaSmith and Empower, both independent) decided they did not want to be part of this initiative, and publicly withdrew from the 4As. It will take a lot for the rift between the 4As and the ANA to turn into an “epoch of belief” or a “spring of hope.” Sadly, I don’t see it happening anytime soon.
One thing is certain: We certainly are not in “the age of wisdom.” This much became clear from other research released in the same week we learned about the Dentsu crisis and the Facebook video overstatement. Industry Index and Deloitte Consulting surveyed over 180 brand and agency buyers on behalf of independent ad server Flashtalking — and what did they call for? Better transparency! I will let that sink in for a moment. Have you stopped laughing yet? I guess we can file that under #duhnews.
The worst part of all the news is that the fraudsters and fakers are increasing their skills faster than you and I can type “bot.” For a truly demoralizing hour, spend some time with digital media fraud specialists, as I did last week with Dr. Augustine Fou, founder and chief digital strategist at Marketing Science Consulting Group, Inc. and adjunct professor at NYU and Rutgers University. Dr. Fou keeps track of how the bad guys manage to keep ahead of the game — which is, frankly, more than scary. The sheer scale, speed and pervasiveness as deployed by the cheaters will make you believe we are most definitely “going the other way” and we will never be “going direct to Heaven.”
But as an optimist, I must believe that, ultimately, we get to live in “the best of times.” The difficult part is figuring out which path will get us there.