From 'Mind-Numbing' To 'Bored To Death,' Digital Media Has An Image Problem

On the heels of the Association of National Advertisers’ announcement that it is embarking on a new study of the “mind-numbing” programmatic digital media marketplace, a new study suggests that digital media has a far deeper -- and higher up -- problem with corporate America. Specifically, in the C-suite.

In “Board To Death,” a new report from marketing technology developer Bango, corporate CEOs said they are not quite so enamored of digital media as the ad community’s enthusiasm would suggest. The report, based on interviews with 200 CEOs, found that 62% believe too much of their digital marketing budget is wasted on activities that don’t deliver meaningful results.

That stat belies much of the growth underlying digital’s expansion over the past several years -- especially during the pandemic -- because much of it was justified by so-called “performance” criteria, not softer measures like brand awareness or lift, etc.



But for all of digital media’s impact and/or results, the top corporate brass aren’t buying it. Sixty percent of the CEOs said they think the marketing potential of social media has been “exaggerated,” while 77% don’t see digital advertising as “a reliable source of new customers or sales.”

“Nobody’s saying that social media can’t add value,” says Bango CMO Anil Malhotra, explaining, “The problem is that this value isn’t translating to the boards of the businesses surveyed. Digital marketers have got so wrapped up reporting on clicks, likes and engagement rates, that they’ve lost focus on the business metrics that actually matter in the boardroom — leads, sales and profits.”

Malhotra adds that it’s not necessarily that digital media’s and marketing’s metrics are “wrong,” so much as it’s doing a poor job of explaining ot the C-suite how all that precision targeting is leading to “meaningful results.”

“The rise of Facebook and Google as ad platforms has convinced marketers that what people like and share is an accurate reflection of what they will buy, so today’s marketing budgets capture browsers, not buyers,” he explains, adding, “That’s why our report argues that digital marketers need to start targeting their audiences based on actual purchase behaviors. This is what will impress the board — the ability to turn social into sales.” 

Following on the ANA’s “mind-numbing charge,” the “board to death” one should be a wake-up call to the digital media industry that they still have some explaining to do.

3 comments about "From 'Mind-Numbing' To 'Bored To Death,' Digital Media Has An Image Problem".
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  1. Ed Papazian from Media Dynamics Inc, May 3, 2021 at 1:20 p.m.

    I think that this is correct, Joe, but not for the reasons cited. To begin with, it is debatable whether digital has the right metrics for branding advertisers---as differentiated from search "advertisers" and there are indications that its targeting mechanisms may not be all they claim to be. Also, there's the phenomenal cost of making digital media buys--with anywhere from 30-50% of the media budget gobbled up by DSPs, targeting systems, the distribution of ad messages, etc. ---compared to only 1-3.5% for "linear TV". Perhaps the most damaging evidence---assuming it can be called that----was evident when a number of big TV advertisers announced that after cutting back significantly of their digital media buys they saw no drop in sales.

    So it's not just a matter of getting the digital folks to do a better job of selling their medium's values to advertiser CMOs and above. They must first and formost move aggressively to clean up their act regarding realistic audience and ad exposure metrics, refine their targeting systems as needed and price the cost of doing business with them far more competitively with TV and other media. And let's not forget about fraud. It's the sellers' responsibility to fix this problem---not the buyers---isn't it?

  2. John Grono from GAP Research, May 3, 2021 at 6:38 p.m.

    Good points Ed.

    My surmisal is that digital, due to its immediacy, has brought out 'the salesman' in many marketers meaning less focus on long-term brand values, and that the C-Suite is starting to get restless.   [And of course this ennui is neither universal nor across all brands and goods, but is more noticeable in retail and PCG etc.]

  3. Michael Hubbard from Media Two Interactive, May 10, 2021 at 1:03 p.m.

    Digital is still a complex animal, so there's no surprise to me that the C-suite is struggling to see the full impact.   We've taken over a number of digital accounts of large marketers from huge agencies only to uncover a lack of education on how data impacts campaigns - and just what those metrics are implying.  Attribution is a pretty word - but few understand how it works, and even fewer understand how to set it up and look at it cross-channels.   Throw on top of all of this the walled-gardens that Facebook and Google have, and you'd think that they're solely responsible for creating every sale in the world.

    Digital is complex.  If you don't fully understand the media and it's platforms, you're going to be paying 30-50% extra margins on your ad buys like Ed mentions above.  If you don't understand digital, you won't understand how it complements and works off of traditional media buys.   Now thow in the fact that C-Suites think you should have better audience targeting - but oh yeah, next year your 3rd party cookies are going away...   This is not an easy industry, and it takes specialists to do it correctly.  It takes seasoned veterans in the space to explain it to a C-Suite who shouldn't have to be living and breathing it every day like we do... I'll be curious to read both of these reports in detail Joe.  Thanks for sharing the findings.

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