STE VE DEMPSEY
gest boycott of anything, ever. Thankfully, there seems to be some awareness that digital advertising has over-promised and under-delivered; unless of course you’re Google or Facebook. It’s about time too.
If we’re to save the web from becoming a series of walled gardens that exist in the shadow of tech giants then we need better ads and a better approach to serv- ing them to audiences. And advertising as an industry needs to be careful that the worst elements of digital advertising don’t spill into other media.
Brands seem to be getting cannier about their spend, prioritising quality over quantity. P&G did just earlier this year, cutting more than $100m in digital spending. P&G’S Marc Pritchard has also stressed the primacy of creativity. “Try and resist thinking about digital in terms of the tools, the platforms, the QR Codes and all of the technology coming next,” he said. “We try and see it for what it is, which is a tool to build our brands by reaching people with fresh creative campaigns... the era of digital marketing is over. It’s almost dead. It’s now just brand building.” Digital publishers are also trying to shake things up. Fusion Media Group is encouraging advertisers to make better ads by rewarding them with bonus impressions. Display ads with high engagement rates can earn up to 20pc more impressions on top of what was booked. The problem is how engagement is measured. There’s a chance that the most shameless click-jacking form of ads will be rewarded.
Another publisher taking a different tack is the Outline, a site which prides itself on its unique aesthetic. The Outline has done away with traditional ad formats and created its own ad units. These custom-made and interactive ads reach a smaller audience than generic formats, but they reportedly have a clickthrough rate of 25 times the industry average.
At the same time it seems that the allure of low-rent, direct marketing digital tactics are encroaching into other media. Some TV companies in the US are trying to combine their mass–market offering with the promise of digital targeting. And AT&T’S acquisition of Time Warner, announced last year, also seems to be about making advertising more targeted.
It seems like a no-brainer, especially when you consider the potential of combining the data from the largest PAY-TV business in the US with mobile streaming and location data. AT&T is betting that the addition of its technology and user data will give their TV advertising a critical edge — pinpoint audience targeting.
But data can serve two purposes. The first is market intelligence that can inform creativity and strategic branding; the second is hyper-targeting.
The latter may generate clicks, if put in front of enough users, but whether it can create broad cultural relevance, an emotional link to a brand, and facilitate a price premium over time is questionable.