I am speaking in Amsterdam next week at the Grote Marketing Congres, an annual marketing conference. This year’s theme is “Trust in advertising is gone: do you believe in it?” (this is my translation from the Dutch title). The topic I was briefed on is data and advertising, and I suggested “Trust and Data Go Hand in Hand” as a potentially controversial title for my keynote.
Obviously, a little controversy goes a long way to attract an audience. But I do believe that, in essence, data and trust should -- and could -- go together. It is the choices we have made as an industry that have severely damaged the relationship between the two.
First of all, what have we offered consumers that would increase instead of diminish their trust in our use of data? Let the record show that we have done a very poor job:
We have not given consumers any reason to believe we have their best interests in mind. On top of these issues, which marketers also often cite as reasons to have little trust in the “data industrial complex” (as Apple CEO Tim Cook calls it), there are poor measurement and performance/ROI insights, fraud and complexities to orchestrate it all.
So who can steer us out of this self-inflicted mess? Initially I would have said “the supply side.” They, after all, have the most to lose in a meltdown. Facebook, Google, Amazon and Twitter are already in the crosshairs of investors and politicians alike -- and either group has significant potential to do damage.
But today, I believe the true answer lies with those holding the purse strings. The World Federation of Advertisers, the Association of National Advertisers -- and its counterpart ISBA in the U.K. -- have already started to push for change.
The other side of the purse strings are agencies. This is in my mind presents a golden opportunity to win back advertiser trust, and actually move the industry in a better, more sustainable direction.
Advertisers have an important goal: ROI. Suppliers/content distributors have an important goal: sustainable revenue. I know I am simplifying here dramatically, but the role of the agency here should be that of impartial bridge-builder.
In the olden days of media, the agency had no interest in which medium was selected for the plan. Inclusion was based on independently developed ratings or reach models, and that led automatically to winners and losers. It wasn’t until the agencies took a position in certain media that the wheels of their independent position started to come off.
So there it is. I believe that data and trust can be helped enormously when agencies retake their independent position as trusted and impartial advisers. And when pigs fly…