If Marketers Withheld Cash, The Industry Would Change (And There Might Be Less Crap)

The Association of National Advertisers voted “transparency” as 2016’s marketing word of the year.

Although this year is still young, “crap” is shaping up to be 2017’s word.

“The reason why so much of digital marketing doesn’t work is because it’s basically crap optimized on crap,” Rishad Tobaccowala, strategy and growth officer at Publicis, said Tuesday at the 4As Data Summit in New York City.

That dim view echoed the sentiments recently expressed by Marc Pritchard, P&G’s chief brand officer. At the Interactive Advertising Bureau’s Annual Leadership Meeting in Florida last week, Pritchard vented his spleen at the lack of transparency in the third-party ecosystem and “ridiculous complexity of different viewability standards.”

“We don’t want to waste time and money on a crappy media supply chain,” Pritchard declared, noting that P&G is only looking to work with and buy media from entities that enable viewability in fraud-free environments.

But rooting out the crap and the confusion also comes down to data quality – and data intelligently applied.

For example, most data starts to lose its value almost immediately, and that’s going to have a negative impact on campaign effectiveness regardless of whether or not an ad was served into a viewable window.

In a mobile and highly connected world, almost any piece of data older than 30 days “is obsolete,” Tobaccowala said.

“Don’t you get pissed off when all of these retargeted ads follow you all over the place when you already bought the shoes?” he said. “That’s basically a marketer saying, ‘I have so much data. I’m going to show you how stupid I am.’”

But the ability to effect change is in the brand’s hands because the brand is the one writing the checks. If marketers want consistency between metrics and viewability standards across platforms, as Pritchard called for during his IAB speech, they should push for it with the power of their checkbooks.

“Why are marketers being told by the people they give money to how things should work?” Tobaccowala said. “They pay billions of dollars to two monopolies [that] say, ‘We will tell you how to be measured and whether we will give you data.’ Stand up and have some balls, somebody. This is your money, not my money.”

The market capitalization of Google and Facebook are based almost solely on advertising.

“This is a data fact, but no one is talking about it,” Tobaccowala said. “Perhaps the ANA should be thinking about that versus some of the other things they think about.”

Tobaccowala stressed that he’s not anti-Google or anti-Facebook, but “what in the world is going on when a buyer is told by the seller what the terms of the agreement are?”

Middlemen just aren’t in a position to shift the existing power structure, he said.

“How is this good for anybody, when certain companies tell you how the world works?” Tobaccowala said. “I can’t do much about it, but marketers can.”

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  1. Mr. Tobaccowala is correct that marketers need to grow a set and demand accountability and transparency from Google, Facebook and any other media source. And marketers would be wise to listen to him and, especially, Marc Pritchard’s indictment of the entire digital/adtech cesspool. My message to clients: how are you following P&G and taking Mr. Pritchard’s suggestions as the base upon which you will build and demand even more transparency and accountability.

    However, I don’t agree with Mr. Tobaccowala’s assessment that almost any piece of data over 30 days is obsolete. All data isn’t equal. Yes, in the digital world, most of what is held out as data doesn’t even meet the dictionary definition of “data.” The fact that some bot running on the malware resident on my computer or that is spoofing my IP address has generated some impressions and/or clicks isn’t data about me. It’s data (“facts”) about some criminal’s botnet.

    Yet that “data” is sold all day long to naive advertisers, who then base campaigns on it. Other data, however, such as my age, income, interests, etc. is far older than 30 days old and incredibly useful. As we all age, for example, it’s relatively easy to compute what types of things we might be more or less interested in purchasing. Based on data (facts) tied to my household, address, name, ethnicity and so forth.

    Finally, his example of being chased around by a marketer after buying the shoes has NOTHING to do with the data. That’s a basic operational problem that the marketer–probably in their quest to use all the hip new technology–neglected to address. To be blunt, it’s a problem of basic competence, something that I think we need to address in digital marketing.

    Mark Pilipczuk

  2. Jamie Khoo

    I was there when he said this. Data quality was the overarching theme of the day. Citibank thought agencies should be doing more, Publicis thinks everyone should be doing more… I’m siding more with Publicis.

    He’s right. There is a dire need for a data provider that is willing to sieve through their data, scrub, regularly maintain, and create a proper taxonomy of their data paths. It is shocking almost zero of the data providers do this prior to selling their data. Is it their fault for selling such data? Or is it our fault for accepting such standards of data? Possibly both.

    But fret not, there are ways to optimize properly. Rishad gave the tip away at the end of his speech: Question your assumptions. Start there and build your optimization engine on that – that’s how you win today… hopefully by tomorrow we will have better data standards.