Time for Chief Accountability Officers?

The ever-thoughtful and prescient Brian Wieser at Pivotal Research noted this week that Facebook says it can potentially reach 41 million 18- to-24-year-olds in the United States and 60 million 25- to 34-year-olds.

Yet these totals far exceed the census count of both groups. According to the Feds, there were only 31 million 18-to-24-year-olds in the nation last year and a mere 45 million 25- to-34-year-olds.

While I have no doubt that the PR minions at Facebook will come up with some ridiculous explanation in an attempt to calm the fury that has been building as the platform continues to reveal that in one way or another it has been bilking advertisers for a long time, if you have spent any time around this business, you know that hyperbole is simply the lingua franca of ad tech.

More always seems to be better in the eyes of ad-tech companies -- so they tend to, uh, "stretch the truth" until someone calls them out. The latest exaggeration du jour is AI, with everyone rebranding their machine learning as artificial intelligence -- which it nearly always is not.



Overstating your reach is kinda just assumed as OK, since there are not enough Brian Wiesers out there going "Wait, what?" I have seen claims that exceed the population of entire countries. And sales always wants to push the highest possible number, since there is generally no way for buyers to independently verify them -- and well, bigger is always better, right?

I think overstating capabilities is really at the heart of the problems that P&G Chief Brand Officer Marc Pritchard has ranted about. He and other brands are tired of being told they will get this while in the end they get that, compounded by ad tech's relentless claim to be the most accountable medium ever. Not to mention the "most transparent."

Yes, indeed, bullshit abounds in nearly every corner of the advertising world, from the agency media buying, production and bidding shenanigans outlined by the Association of National Advertisers (hi, Bob, haven't forgotten your screed) to Google's fake traffic, to platforms' apparent inability or unwillingness to avoid placing brands adjacent to inappropriate content.

You kind of expect up-and-comers to strain the bounds of truth here, and there since they are desperately trying to get traction and stay alive, but when Facebook and Google -- the two biggest beneficiaries of digital ad spend -- bullshit you, then what is a body to do?

Time for Chief Accountability Officers?  Geeky folks who do nothing but question claims and ask for proof before buying, and then examine post-campaign reports and call out inconsistencies -- or at times, outright fraud?  One wonders if there is enough bullshit out there to justify yet another level of management -- and how sad that it's even necessary to talk about such a possibility.

3 comments about "Time for Chief Accountability Officers? ".
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  1. Ed Papazian from Media Dynamics Inc, September 7, 2017 at 6:51 p.m.

    George, the problem with this is that many of the "advertisers" who buy digital media don't have a media director, let alone a chief media officer, but rely on a local or specialist agency or just buy it themselves. At such companies, and there seem to be countless thousands of them, there is no place for a chief accountability officer and it would be almost impossible to find one let alone to train him/her. So we are probably talking about the major TV-style branding advertisers---many of whom have media directors and professional agencies with good media departments as well as larger direct response and other types of non-branding "advertisers" who, one must assume, are also staffed with or served by professional media buying units. Here, one would think that the title, chief accountability officer would simply be a new name for media director as such duties should constitute a basic part of the media function at an advertiser who spends large amounts in digital as well as other media.

    What's really needed, in my opinion, is for the digital ad sellers, led by the giants, to act in concert, in consultation with the agencies and their major clients as well as audience counting firms---Nielsen and comScore----and auditiing entities to work out a fair and equitable set of metric reporting standards and make them stick. That is, in effect, what happened with TV as well as with radio and magazines and it creates a more or less stable statistical platform---or base---to which refinements can be added by individual players, as needed. Without such an organizational initiative, the chief accountability officer---if appointed---would probably get nowhere at most companies and might actually get in the way or impede progress.

  2. George Simpson from George H. Simpson Communications, September 7, 2017 at 8:12 p.m.

    Thank you Ed for that thoughtful response. I get the impression that obfuscation is often a tactic and that the LAST thing many media and ad tech companies want is to be held to accountability metrics that everyone can understand (and perhaps compare against the performance of say, TV).

  3. John Grono from GAP Research, September 8, 2017 at 7:47 p.m.

    Again I agree with you Ed.

    Here in Australia, The IAB, in concert the Media Federation of Australia (MFA) and the Australian Association of National Advertiseres (AANA), some years ago endorsed Nielsen as our 'preferred supplier' (with regular reviews of course).

    The IAB also conducts a Measurement Council which comprises the major global and local players as well as the MFA.   We conduct frank and lively meetings every month, to discuss all sorts of 'currency' audience measurement issues.   We also provide Nielsen with feedback that leads into their product development plan, and indeed provide a lot of deep technical input, as well as calibrating the results against internal publisher metrics so that it is acceptable to all players.

    I stress that this is for the 'currency' metrics.   We have no say over individual publisher PR data.

    As you may have noted we have have Digital Content Ratings providing daily data across all devices as well as for static, audio and video (as long as the publisher has deployed the SDK or tagging).   It's a hard road to hoe - but it is rewarding to work with the sharpest digital audience measurement minds downunder.

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