Solving Advertising's Trust Problem

  • by , Featured Contributor, September 28, 2017

When the choices of where to advertise were few -- local radio, local newspapers, local broadcast TV, magazines and Yellow Pages -- the issue of trust in your media partners was pretty straightforward: Did my ad run as promised? Was the copy OK? Did they charge me the right amount?

In that yesterday world of media, the issue of sales attribution was pretty straightforward, too: Did more people buy my stuff? Did I, my boss, my family or friends see or hear my ad? Did my customers mention my ad?

Flash-forward to today. By far the hottest topic among Advertising Week attendees, panelists and pundits in New York City over the past few days has been advertising’s big trust problem.

What are these issues? Digital ad exchanges are selling fraudulent, domain-spoofed placements on to the tune of more than $1 million per month. Last-click and multi-touch-point attribution models are collectively showing more advertising return on investment than several times the gross domestic product.



A marketer who was convinced to buy thousands of search terms learned that 97% of all of its search conversions came from searches for its brand name and 21 common misspellings of the brand. When that marketer turned off bids for hundreds of other search terms it was led to believe were vital to its business, there was no measurable impact on sales.

Another platform was providing audience reach estimates that exceed the U.S. census.

OK, so we know we have some problems. What’s to be done? Here are some ideas:

More transparency and third-party verification. This should be an easy one. The more sellers disclose to buyers, the more the mystery is removed -- remember, where there is mystery there is most likely margin -- the more trust can take root and grow. The television advertising ecosystem is certainly a walled garden, but learned years ago the power of providing transparency into ad delivery, audience measurement and third-party verification and auditing. Over the past few months, we’ve seen Moat and DoubleVerify, digital ad-verification companies, sold for hundreds of millions of dollars each. The market is speaking.

True multitouchpoint attribution, with TV included at impression level. Marketers can’t make the best decisions for allocating their advertising spend if they don’t have models that provide strategic guidance and multichannel sensitivity at the campaign level. That is the promise of multitouchpoint-attribution (MTA) systems. While they aren’t there yet, we need these solutions to include all major forms of commercial communication, ideally at the person/impression level. They certainly need to include TV campaigns that way. Today, almost none can do that, weighing TV in by gross rating points. Hopefully, this week's news of TV ratings powerhouse Nielsen buying Visual IQ, a top MTA provider, will help change that.

Less focus on bright shiny objects and more focus on scientific method. Many of these trust issues occurred because marketers have leaned more into buying the latest bright shiny objects and less into evaluating and imposing scientific methods on how they spend their advertising dollars. They need to restrain themselves much more from the former and impose much greater discipline relative to the latter.

What do you think?

7 comments about "Solving Advertising's Trust Problem".
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  1. Ed Papazian from Media Dynamics Inc, September 28, 2017 at 3:39 p.m.

    Very true, Dave. In the 1960s the ad agency media researchers---myself and a number of like minded colleagues-----operated much like industry watchdogs and, in fact we inititiated many of the improvements, sometimes with the support of a few activist clients, such as the switch from household to people ratings, the use of demographics, the creation of Simmons-type studies which gave us for the first time product use/purchase data for magazine and TV show audiences in great detail, viewer attentiveness measurements for TV and many other innovations. We did those things for the industry as a whole, not as competing agencies trying to promote one over the other. And we got a great deal done by acting in unison for the common good. Sadly, what came next was---and still is--"the age of me'' which replaced "the age of we". Lots of factors caused this, many of them affecting society as a whole---which I won't go into. Nevertheless we are still living in the age of "me" and very few companies---be they advertisers, agencies or media content/ad sellers, are really interested in working together for the common good. Look at the great mess in digital media as an example. Why dont the digital giants---Google and Facebook----step up and work together like NBC and CBS once did in the early days of TV to set fair and proper standards?

    I believe that the only way we are going to see progress is by organizing those advertisers and media sellers who actually care about doing it better into taking cooperative action, thereby demonstrating what can be gained to the others who are concerned only about their own bottom lines and unwilling to help anyone but themselves. This approach could certainly work regarding TV's upfront, and the way TV time is bought but It could also apply to digital media---if anyone really cared.

  2. Paula Lynn from Who Else Unlimited replied, September 29, 2017 at 10:20 a.m.

    Ed, you answered your own question.

  3. Ed Papazian from Media Dynamics Inc, September 29, 2017 at 12:41 p.m.

    Paula, I'm sorry to say it but you are probably right.

  4. Craig Mcdaniel from Sweepstakes Today LLC, September 29, 2017 at 2:34 p.m.

    Dave, you post is about "trust" but lacks any mention of trust of the publishers. This is very disappointing for a man of your experience. Publishers have to and need to be a part of the discussion. Do you honestly think I want crap ads on my website? No. Do you think I want to see low paying ads on my website? No. Do you think I want ads that have so much tracking coding included that a webpage is very slow to load? No.

    Instead of looking at the ad issues totally from the top down, for once look at the problem from the bottom up. The scam ads hurts all and not just the people in the high rise towers.

    Trust me, I know a few things...

  5. Dave Morgan from Simulmedia replied, September 29, 2017 at 3:32 p.m.

    Craig. Very good points. I don't disagree. However, my sense is that buy-side fixes are more likely to drive change. There is no question that digital publishers and digital marketers could implement White List solutions ... pre-clearing both ads that pubishers will accept and publishers that advertisers will accept running on. However, few are willing to implement ... publishers fearing loss of opportunistic revenue and advertisers fearing loss of opportunistic cheap buys. There is no question that it can be solved from the bottom up as well. What do you think the industry should do?

  6. Craig Mcdaniel from Sweepstakes Today LLC, September 29, 2017 at 4:19 p.m.

    Dave, thank you very much for the reply and question. I have several suggestions but going to focus in on what I know solves the a least one problem. In a few weeks, I will been in business with for 15 years. While you see some banners, I have tried to focus on direct text link ad sales. What is forgotten in online ads is the link is the most important part of the ad, not the ad image. with that said, That ad link can not be hacked, scammed or cheated on ST because we have massive security build in. Never once has it happened in over 65,000 sweepstakes ads.

    Dave, the problem is the big agencies like WPP and McCann's trust my work and many big advertisers love us because of results, security and cost. The issue has been with the ad distributors like Google and DoubleClick who has total refused to create an ad network to sell quality ads.  Their concern is losing their monoply in online ad sales. I could sell out the inventory any quality sweepstakes ad on CPA or CPC if given to me. And, I have.  So what does these really mean? Speciality websites like ST in sweeps, or travel sites should get airline and hotel for their site and so on. Get rid of the non-important, no related ads on speciality websites.

    Last, if you look into detail what I have done with text link ads, i take great care to put up the best ad possible. Trust me. i know what I am doing with sweepstakes ads when given the opportunity.

  7. Dave Morgan from Simulmedia replied, September 29, 2017 at 5:49 p.m.

    I am in total agreement Ed. The industy needs to come together on this and it will certainly require more transparency and cooperation from all involved. The entire industry will win if they do. I truly hope they all care.

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