P&G Is Right -- Digital Marketing Must Escape The 'Crap Trap'

P&G's Chief Brand Officer Marc Pritchard is at it again, telling adland another uncomfortable truth. He started out by famously pointing out how non-transparent advertising is, and now he has landed another jab on adland's chin.

Speaking at the 4A's conference in LA yesterday, The Drum reveals how he once again told it like it is. Too many brands are using too many agencies to produce too many ads they try to spray out at far too many people on way too many sites. Everyone is caught up in what he calls the "crap trap."

It has been a topic that everyone in adland has talked about over a pint and pie for many a year. It's a kind of inconvenient truth that there is just an awful lot of advertising around now that digital has inched ahead of traditional media in annual spend.

I remember many conversations about creative being almost a joke of a word in digital display. A common theme has been click-through rates being so low that they are almost meaningless because ads were rushed out the door. With virtually zero creativity and just a catchy offer, they are routinely dispatched by blind bidding machines to hopefully shine a little brighter than all the other ads they will rub shoulders with wherever they end up.

This scenario is generally complicated by big brands hiring multiple agencies in several regions, so it's hard to pin down who is producing too much stuff that doesn't work but just adds to the clutter. Thus, Pritchard made the point yesterday that although P&G has been as guilty as anyone of feeding "the complexity beast," the FMCG group has recently halved the number of agencies it works with around the globe.

The central message of yesterday was moving on from transparency to call for brands to have the bravery to do less, with fewer agencies, and do it better.

This has certainly been a trend of the last year or so in London. I have been speaking with agency people and strategists, and it seems there is a very clear path for brands to consolidate accounts.

I'm not sure if it's just me, but I have definitely noticed this trend toward fewer agencies is leading to comms and PR entering the mix here too. In particular, social media seems to be one that is spun in or out of comms to save hiring a separate bunch of digital ninjas or have it done by the same people working on another aspect of the brand's digital marketing.

At the same time, it's pretty clear that this year is shaping up to be the one where transparency is seriously discussed rather than just mentioned at conferences. This is coinciding with a brand safety issue which will surely see blind programmatic buying curtailed. 

So the whole notion of getting too many people to do too much mediocre rushed stuff that gets sprayed off to too many people in way too many (unsafe?) places is being challenged. And it is not before time.

Spray and pray, as I love to call it, has been the approach for many. A more considered approach has to be the next big trend as rosters are slimmed down and simplified and a serious question mark is hung over buying masses of cheap inventory blind.

Less is more could definitely be the mantra that sums up the year ahead.

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