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It may be just me, but the wind seems to be changing and radical ideas are afloat.

We’re now two weeks removed from the IAB Annual Leadership Meeting in Florida where President/CEO Randall Rothenberg blistered the crowd with a Jeremiad that was both bracing and very, very clear.  I’ll paraphrase:

This thing of ours has gotten pretty fucked up.  And if you’re not part of the solution, then you’re part of the problem.

This thing of ours, of course, is digital advertising and marketing.  And he’s right.  The very fact that the head of your industry organization is giving a speech called “Repair the Trust” tells you a lot.  Sure, we’ve had areas of disagreement and mushy standards for much of the last two decades.  But when the subjects were arcane things like terms & conditions, viewability and margin transparency, most of us just kept our eyes down and pushed our food around the plate.  Avoidance and obfuscation was a perfectly reasonable strategy.

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But no longer.  Because now the issue is fake news.  Remember that kid sitting in his kitchen in Macedonia pumping out fake news stories about Obama’s love child or the Papal endorsement of the Trump campaign?  Turns out we were collectively paying him.  Ouch.

The rotten system that blindly rewards page views and ad calls and shares has become the intravenous feeding tube for parasitic monsters who may realistically render the concept of truth itself irrelevant.  Fake traffic and fraudulent video numbers were bad.  Fake truth and moral relativism are much, much worse.

Randall made it very clear when he said “It’s time to get out of the fake anything business.”   Yes.  We are only as good and as moral as who our system pays and what it pays for.  Without ethical clarity, the next $50 billion in digital advertising revenue will be just so much drug money.  And each one of us has a part to play in making sure it’s not.

You see, our business is really just an average of the behaviors of our best and worst players.  It’s time to bring back the concept of shame.  If you employ the highest standards as a publisher, talk about them.  If you demand the highest standards as an advertiser, pay for them.  And whoever you are, get off the line and pick a side.

The world is watching.

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The Tyranny of Dead Internet Ideas; Part 3

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These comments are being posted simultaneously on The Drift and on the iMedia Connection blog in advance of my keynote at next month’s iMedia Agency Summit in Austin, Texas.  This is the last of three posts on this topic.

Over the past two days, I’ve outlined a few of the “Dead Ideas” that I believe are stifling innovation and stunting the development of online advertising and marketing.  Today I’ll round out the list with a couple more of the tyrannical “Dead Internet Ideas” that stubbornly cling to the shadow of life.

Dead Idea #5:  Targeting; the Word. Since the idea first took root 15 years ago, we in the industry have freely discussed ‘targeting’ this consumer or that one, based on behavior, affinity, gender and a dozen other characteristics.  We’ve done so as if nobody was listening; as though we were having an insider baseball discussion on the mound with nobody around.  Turns out people are listening.  And they’re deeply offended.  Online marketing has the stink of creepiness around it at a time when the average consumer is paranoid about his or her privacy and data security.  Nobody wants to be ‘targeted’ in this world, but we don’t seem to get that.  May I humbly suggest that talking about ‘targeting’ is the deadest of ideas, and also humbly suggest a more benign (and accurate) replacement:  ‘ad selection.’

Dead Idea #6:  Getting It All Figured Out. Whether it’s the ‘Holy Grail’ referred to in so many  pie-in-the-sky business plans or a set of immutable ‘standards’ that will usher our business to a state of calm maturity, the idea of things ever being completely sorted in our world is muerto.  Sure we might find some temporary standards around simple stuff like ad sizes or the length of a video unit.  But it’s time to let experience trump optimism and accept that ours is a permanently dynamic marketplace.  Speed, adaptability and an ever-questioning nature are what will breed success.  Acceptance that ‘standards’ as we like to think of them in traditional media are a dead idea is a great start to a healthy new generation of managers and leaders in our business.

If you think I’m way off the mark with these tyrannical ‘dead ideas,’ post your thoughts here.  Or best yet, bring your own dead ideas to the discussion at next month’s iMedia Agency Summit in Austin.  I’m not looking for agreement, per se; passionate curiosity means much more.  Because the deadest idea of all is indifference.

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