It's been a while since I've heard the old Wanamaker chestnut "half the money I spend on advertising is wasted; the trouble is I don't know which half." And if a new initiative backed by the ARF works out, it's possible nobody will ever repeat it again.
Some skuttlebutt I heard this weekend that "Ad Age" is on the block was incorrect, but the premise of this column -- the more things change, the more they remain the same -- apparently is.
Rishad Tobaccowala once famously described the ad industry as cockroaches. He meant it as a compliment, but today I'd like to compare it to gnats, in a not-so-flattering way.
As troubling as these times are, it's encouraging to see brands and agencies stepping up and taking an activist stance that I don't think we ever would have seen in "normal" times. Last week's statement by Dentsu Aegis Network's 360i, a column published by The Media Kitchen chief Barry Lowenthal, and big outdoor lifestyle brands such as North Face, Patagonia and REI are stepping up and putting their money where their mouths are, exercising what might be called "the highly visible hand of the marketplace."
That was one of the questions raised during a symposium hosted by the Institute for Advertising Ethics last week featuring hundreds of regulatory, ad industry, and academic experts who spent a day hashing out what it would take for Madison Avenue to create the kind of ethical standards that would prevent new regulations restricting how, when, where and why advertisers use data to identify and target consumers.
Full disclosure -- I am white. I'm also a male. I've also lived what many would consider a privileged life. If you feel those attributes disqualify me from reporting on the protests and discussion surrounding racial injustice that followed the murder of George Floyd on the streets by police officers on the streets of Minneapolis on May 25, I'm sorry. I feel compelled to do it anyway, because it's my job to cover when important things happen that could impact our readers.
Just before the pandemic disrupted "normal" coverage of the ad industry, I began working on a series of initiatives related to the industry's ethics, especially its use of consumer data. While the pandemic and its economic aftermath continue to play out, it feels like it's time to return to this project for a couple of reasons outlined in today's "RTBlog."
The rampant availability of new sources of audience data -- and of data management platforms to organize them -- has created a kind of "Wild West" for audience targeting that requires buyers and sellers of media to think not just about the outputs, but the inputs that led to those conclusions.
One of the most surprising developments surrounding our coverage of the COVID-19 pandemic is the degree to which real-time marketing or media data has become a proxy for epidemiological data, revealing patterns of human behavior changing in response to the disease. First it was Google search and Amazon sales data ascribing how people were researching and preparing for it. But more recently, ad industry data developed for marketing and media planning have become leading indicators of a return to some normalcy.
One of the fundamental changes the COVID-19 crisis is having on the way we think, feel and behave is the role our personal hygiene plays protecting ourselves -- and others -- in an era of pandemics.