P&G Wants To Drain The Digital Advertising Swamp. Who’s Going To Step Up?

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Maarten Albarda

Last week, the Doomsday Clock was moved from 3 to 12 to 2.5 to 12. Scientists believe that the current chances of the world going up in a thermo-nuclear puff of smoke is highest since 1953. This in the same week that Marc Pritchard, the Global Brand Building Officer from P&G, made waves when he announced that P&G, in effect, had moved the hand of the ad spend doomsday clock to 12. High noon!

In an IAB presentation, Mr. Pritchard stated that his company was sooooo over digital advertising middle men costs, meaningless viewability benchmarks and pouring money into ad fraud.

P&G obviously carries serious weight in the advertising and marketing world. When they say that they’re done with spending working dollars on non-value adding costs and/or fraud in digital, the world pays attention. And to make sure we all know P&G means business, they have just announced a major media pitch across North Europe, the UK and Ireland.

More importantly, Mr. Pritchard also shared some painful truths about how the company let itself go this far. It sounded like P&G fell, like everyone else, into the rat race of chasing the latest shiny objects through industry peer pressure. There are several important and wise lessons in P&G’s aha moment. But to me the biggest one is that they forgot one of its foundational strengths, which is that P&G always was a company that was data and fact driven.

Advertisers are paying attention and that will hopefully push the industry to drain the proverbial swamp that is digital advertising today (see what I did there?).

So it is with conviction that I say: Dear agencies, dear 4A’s: this is a defining moment. This is a moment where you can step up and address the issues raised by all of us here in the peanut gallery of (digital) advertising, the World Federation of Advertisers, the Association of National Advertisers, White Opps and now P&G. What other motivation do you need?

It is the moment where you must step up and somehow find a way to turn the 21-3 deficit you’re facing into a win (yeah, I know, it is news metaphors all over the place today!). Someone, anyone from the agency holding companies: be the Tom Brady your side so desperately needs.

At the same time: Dear Advertisers and Marketers, this is not the moment to declare all digital advertising as bad advertising. This is not the time to declare a ban, even temporarily, on digital ad spend (booya: another one!). Digital advertising is your today and tomorrow. So don’t go all nuclear on it in a 180 degree about turn. That would be about as incoherent as not doing anything about the current status quo for the last say ten years.

It is, as always, ultimately all about the data. Data can (and must) provide the perfect middle ground to find agreement. Data must provide the measurement that will determine if and when an ad has been viewed. And that means “viewed” by human eyes, in the intended environment. Kind of like commercial ratings… And data can (and must) be independently gathered and verified. It must be transparent and beyond reproach.

At Flock, we have supported clients on projects that addressed the basic issues outlined above. We have found ways to build more meaningful measurement models, we have created better digital advertising safeguards, and we have designed and negotiated more relevant agency contracts and compliance. Furthermore, at the upcoming OMMA conference on February 22 in Atlanta, Maarten will be leading a panel discussion on the very issue of ad fraud. And Simon will join a panel in May at the Global Festival of Media on the benefits and challenges of taking programmatic in house. All are strategies that can help individual clients.

But in the end, the industry needs solutions, not just individual marketers. So who is going to step up? Who will deliver the first meaningful response to P&G and the whole industry? Your move, agency holding companies. Brady! Brady! Brady!


[Maarten is a featured contributor to MediaPost, this article was originally published here]

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