Last week, the Doomsday Clock was moved from 3 minutes to midnight to 2.5 minutes to 12. Scientists believe that the chance of the world going up in a thermonuclear puff of smoke is the highest it's been since 1953. This in the same week that Marc Pritchard, the global brand building officer from P&G, made waves by announcing that P&G, in effect, had moved the hand of the ad-spend doomsday clock to 12. High noon!
In an Interactive Advertising Bureau presentation, Pritchard stated that his company was sooooo over digital advertising middle men costs, meaningless viewability benchmarks and pouring money into ad fraud.
P&G obviously carries serious weight in the advertising and marketing world. When a company exec says that it’s done with spending working dollars on non-value-adding costs and/or fraud in digital, the world pays attention. And to make sure we all know P&G means business, it has just announced a major media pitch across North Europe, the U.K. and Ireland.
More importantly, Pritchard also shared some painful truths about how the company let itself go this far. It sounded like P&G fell, like everyone else, into the rat race of chasing the latest shiny objects through industry peer pressure.
There are several important and wise lessons in P&G’s aha moment. But to me the biggest one is that its strategists forgot one of the company’s foundational strengths: P&G was always a company that was data- and fact-driven.
Advertisers are paying attention, which will hopefully push the industry to drain the proverbial swamp that is digital advertising today (see what I did there?).
So it is with conviction that I say: Dear agencies, dear 4A’s, this is a defining moment. This is a moment where you can step up and address the issues raised by all of us here in the peanut gallery of (digital) advertising, the World Federation of Advertisers, the Association of National Advertisers, White Ops and now P&G. What other motivation do you need?
It is the moment where you must step up and somehow find a way to turn the 21-3 deficit you’re facing into a win (yeah, I know, there are news metaphors all over the place today!). Someone, anyone from the agency holding companies: Be the Tom Brady your side so desperately needs.
At the same time, dear advertisers and marketers, this is not the moment to declare that all digital advertising is bad advertising. This is not the time to declare a ban, even temporarily, on digital ad spend (booyah: another one!). Digital advertising is your today and tomorrow. So don’t go all nuclear on it in a 180-degree about turn. That would be about as incoherent as not doing anything about the current status quo for the last 10 years.
It is, as always, ultimately all about the data. Data can (and must) provide the perfect middle ground to find agreement. Data must provide the measurement that will determine if and when an ad has been viewed. And that means “viewed” by human eyes, in the intended environment. Kind of like commercial ratings. And data can (and must) be independently gathered and verified. It must be transparent and beyond reproach.
So who is going to step up? Who will deliver the first meaningful response to P&G and the whole industry? Your move, agency holding companies. Brady! Brady! Brady!