If you have ever worked for an ad-tech company, you know that a major part of their pitch is the promise to deliver certain results. In early days, the claims centered on the number of "eyeballs" that would see your ad.
When that claim was proven pretty meaningless, there was a move to promise delivery of all sorts of other "success metrics" from "time spent," "brand lift," "conversion" (with lots of different meanings) to "engagement," “landing page views,” "dwell time" and "percent completed."
Many of these metrics were unique to the company promising them, so buyers were left on their own to decide if they made any sense at all and if they could be applied beyond this single vendor -- usually, not.
Since most buyers are besieged by dozens of ad-tech companies, each promising a different success metrics, they don't have the technology or resources to independently verify the claims made by those vendors. They simply rely on reports from the vendor. This is often called "grading your own homework."
The problem is, many of these made-up metrics don't really add up to increased sales, at least not in a way that you can draw a straight line of attribution from the ad to the sale -- even those verified by "third-party" vendors well aware of who's paying their monthly invoices.
In short, if ad-tech vendors had really delivered on only a small part of their claims, sales would spike in a readily apparent way -- and rather than struggling to get meetings, vendors would be turning away buyers.
So all of this points to failed metrics, right? Not necessarily. You can actually deliver results that are too good to be believed -- and so aren't.
I know of a major consumer food brand that saw results metrics proving pretty conclusively that the vendor could indeed deliver more customers at a lower cost, clearly demonstrating the relationship between the ad campaign and an increase in online and brick-and-mortar sales. You'd think they'd be doing handstands, right?
Just the opposite. They saw the findings as an indictment that they hadn't been doing the best possible job by using traditional ways of targeting and buying media. The last thing they wanted was evidence that what they assumed to be historically effective was, in fact, in decline.
This is a challenge to companies that build technology questioning years of status-quo relationships and assumptions that have driven hundreds of millions of dollars of ad spend.
It has been hard enough for traditional media to deal with the digital age at the consumer level without having to blow up and rethink how they help brands REALLY move product. It is much easier to keep saying, "if it ain't broke, don't fix it."
But what will happen is that their more nimble, perhaps smaller competitors will adapt the tech that moves the sales needle, provably. And then brands will hear about it and start asking, "Why can't you deliver those kinds of results?"
"We are working on it" is no longer a sufficient answer.