“Every day there’s a new media and way to reach consumers, and were trying to figure out how to leverage and integrate it while delaying issues like viewability or fraud,” Liodice said. “In all candor, marketers have been slow.”
With marketers in the dark, some agencies take advantage of naivety to ease the pressure from shrinking margins and rising technology costs.
Threats to agency profitability are still real. Take McDonald’s, which is preventing agencies from turning a profit on base compensation as a condition of its 2016 review. The fast-food giant spent $1.42 billion on advertising in 2014.
“We fall into holes when trying to be efficient,” Hill said. “Things are getting tight.”
Agencies scramble to make up their losses, some by skimming and double dipping off advertiser budgets and pushing their clients even further into the dark. Marketers are waking up to this, but they’re still not taking it upon themselves to make a change.
“The old paradigm is, ‘Agencies will take care of that for us.’ They’re not,” Liodice said. “We have to take more responsibility for the advertising quality we want to be delivered.”
When the industry takes a step back from its internal issues, leaders see they have all but forgotten about the consumer. With hundreds of millions of users tuning out brands altogether with ad blockers, leaders call for a shift in priorities.
“Consumers are the most important factor in this equation and we talk about them the least,” Hill said. “The rise of ad blocking shows that they don’t necessarily want to see our messages anymore.”
The Trustworthy Accountability Group, which released an anti-fraud program on Monday, intends to clean up fraud throughout the supply chain, and the ANA will release a report in June shedding light on the transparency issue. But the industry still needs to figure out how to create a better overall experience and recapture user attention.
“The whole ad-blocking problem is about people in this room doing things that over a period of years created a digital media experience that was so horrifying, upsetting and distressing to an average human being that given the opportunity with software they’ll say, ‘No más,’” Rothenberg said.
Watch the full panel: