Ad industry legend Rishad Tobaccowala, Chief Growth Officer at Publicis Groupe, has a prescription for fixing the world of advertising and marketing that you might not expect from a top executive at one of the world’s largest buyers of media.
His idea? More expensive advertising.
I heard Rishad, one of our industry’s smartest and most thought-provoking seers and strategist, give his take on the current and future state of advertising at the CDX Forum in New York Thursday morning. He believes that much of what has happened to advertising over the past 10 years is direct marketing gone wrong, and one of the keys to a better future is more expensive advertising.
“It is better to reach the right person in the right context once, even if [it’s] expensive, than to reach that person 25 times in cheap, wrong places,” he explained.
Rishad is right.
I have been a fan, friend and fellow traveler through this industry for more than two decades, and I have never agreed with him more. We need an advertising world where people receive fewer, more relevant ads; where advertisers reach the right person in the right place at the right time to help grow their businesses; and, where media owners’ content, environments and platforms delight users, serve advertisers and generate profits.
The proliferation of advertising impression opportunities has caused us to build technology and systems that weaponize advertising, bombarding people over and over again with the same messages, many of them irrelevant or inflammatory, with little or no regard to the context of the contact. As media and advertising become omnipresent, everyone is increasingly treated only as consumers at every touchpoint -- and rarely if ever like citizens.
Is Rishad’s idea an unachievable nirvana? I don’t think so -- certainly not if we don’t let the pursuit of perfect get in the way of better.
First, we have to elevate the importance of effectiveness in advertising. Today, way too much emphasis is placed on improving the cost efficiency of ad buys, rather than improving results, ROI and customer experience.
Second, we need to tap the brakes hard on retargeting. Shoe ads that follow people around the web for days and weeks on end, just because they once searched, viewed or bought a product at a merchant site, are no longer humorous. Consumers object to such efforts. Retargeting systems deliver those ads because their algorithms focus exclusively on the 0.01% of people who click through and buy on those banners or tiles and ignore the impact of those ads on the 99.99% of folks who don’t.
Third, we need to rebuild trust, both trust in advertising among its recipients and trust between advertisers, their agencies and their media, tech and data suppliers. There is a lack of trust in all quarters, much of it justified.
There is no simple solve here. At the least, we need to be more respectful of ad recipients, and give them more notice and opportunities to consent to how they and their data will be treated. We need more transparency among companies working together across buying, selling and enabling ads.
Finally, we need to innovate and perfect new advertising models, that can truly reach the right person in the right context, even when they could be more expensive. In the end, this is a much better investment for all of us.
What do you think? Do we need more expensive advertising?