Two weeks ago, when I wrote 2017: THE YEAR IT ALL HITS THE FAN, I never expected the shit would fly this hard or this fast.
An earthquake hit adland last week.
The world's largest advertiser, Procter & Gamble, told the corrupt, fraud-ridden online media industry, and its feckless lapdogs in the agency business, that it had had enough and it wasn't gonna take it any more.
At the annual "leadership" meeting (I use the quotes advisedly) of the Inactive
(oops, sorry) Interactive Advertising Bureau, Marc Pritchard, chief brand officer for P&G, told the assembled squids, slugs, and tap dancers that unless they cleaned up their act and adhered to some specific guidelines he laid down they weren't going to get any more P&G money. The great Mark Ritson called it "the biggest marketing speech for 20 years."
Pritchard called online media practices, “murky at best and fraudulent at worst.”
That's nothing new to us. But it's a whole different thing when it comes from the world's largest advertiser than when it comes from some dumb-ass blogger.
Of course, the question nobody wants to ask is this: Where have the people been who should have been protecting their clients all this time -- where have the agencies been? Where have the 4A's been?
The kindest explanation is that they've been asleep at the wheel. But, please, don't kid a kidder.
Over the years there have been dozens of stories about about corruption, click fraud, traffic fraud, non-transparent practices, kickbacks, walled gardens, misrepresentation of data, bots, plots and what-nots. And not a single one of the revelations has come from the advertising industry. Not one.
They all have come from the press, or clients, or disgruntled former employees, or dumb-ass bloggers.
Pritchard said, "We serve ads to
consumers through a non-transparent media supply chain with spotty compliance to common standards, unreliable measurement, hidden rebates and new inventions like bot and methbot fraud..."
Well, amigos, guess who's knee-deep in that non-transparent media supply chain? That's a big reason the Wall Street agency leaders have turned a blind eye, ear, nose and throat.
The unseen hand behind all this is
adtech. It is a monstrosity that is teetering on the brink of collapse under the weight of its own insanely counterproductive cost and complexity. The only thing holding it upright is the bewildering ignorance of advertisers and the venality of agency holding companies. But that is a subject for another rant.
The ad industry has spent several decades developing common standards for measurement, standard definitions for transparency, and standard practices for third party verification. But in recent years it has thrown these standards away like infatuated schoolgirls mesmerized by a bunch of
fast-talking techno-hustlers who came swaggering in to blind them with pseudo-science.
The ad industry and its clients have demonstrated a degree of gullibility that is beyond explanation. Let's hope Pritchard's speech is the start of something good.
The real test will come when we see what Facebook and Google do. They essentially are the online ad industry. They are also the prime abusers of the tradition of third party media verification, and they have steadfastly kept their chastity belts carefully secured.
Will the advertising and marketing industries join P&G and insist on standards of transparency or will they cave and let the cuties of the online media industry continue to bamboozle them? That's the big question.
The big dog has barked. Let's see what the silly poodles do.