Digital Ads: Craft or Crap?

March 24, 2017

Shots fired – adland’s problem with digital

We summarize, and take a look at the evolving reaction to, Marc Pritchard’s IAB speech at the beginning of the year. Digital adland and publishers were put on one year’s notice to clean up their act, and as the end of Q1 approaches, we thought we’d bring the story up to date. 

On the 29th of January, Proctor and Gamble’s Chief Brand Officer Marc Pritchard pressed the media for more transparency surrounding media buying and view-ability for online advertisements at the IAB’s annual leadership meeting. He started by describing the current system as “antiquated” and unable to keep up with the evolving digital industry hence the increase of ad blockers by consumers. He explained that technology enables Craft and Crap but more often than not, “the outcome has been more crappy advertising accompanied by even crappier viewing experiences”.


“We have an antiquated media buying and selling system that was clearly not built for this technology revolution. 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” he said, according to a transcript of his speech seen by Marketing Week.


“Better advertising and media transparency are closely related. Why? Because better advertising requires time and money, yet we are all wasting way too much time and money on a media supply chain with poor standards adoption, too many players grading their own homework, too many hidden touches, and too many holes to allow criminals to rip us off”.


He then listed out five action steps P&G is taking to clean up the media supply chain during 2017 which is open to any and all business in the industry to apply.

  • Action one: Adopt one view-ability standard
  • Action two: Implement third party verification
  • Action three: Get transparent agency contracts
  • Action four: Prevent ad fraud
  • Action five: Vote with our dollars


In his conclusion he said, “We have a media supply chain that is murky at best and fraudulent at worst. We need to clean it up, and invest the time and money we save into better advertising to drive growth.” Thereafter he gave agencies, publishers, suppliers and ad tech companies an ultimatum to either comply or P&G works with and buys media only from entities that comply which will in turn give the company the assurance that the ads created by P&G are experienced by the consumers they serve in the most productive way.

The aftermath and industry response

As we approach the end of the first quarter of the year and since his speech was delivered in January, we thought it wise to be on the lookout for what has happened since, what is likely going to happen and who has said what on the importance of digital ads transparency. The most recent case is the case of Google versus media agencies in Ireland and the United Kingdom were brands are calling on the multinational technology company to do more to ensure ad safety especially in terms of openness, transparency and measures to avoid ad fraud and misplacement in the digital economy.


Reputable company  executives have also voiced out their opinions on this issue like, Ian Miller, the CEO and Co-Founder of Iris Worldwide said that Marc’s comments came at a time desperately need in the industry. However, agency/client relationships have gone so far from being meritocratic which brings about this  question, “are media agencies and channels working together to stop the process of evolution in the industry?”


He proposed the idea that the digital industry should be focused on creating content and conversations that do not feel like advertising. However, it should be focused on things people actually want to watch for longer than two seconds.


Andrew Stevens, CEO of the Goodstuff commends the Chef Brand Officer on the issues he has raised and commends him on the action plans he has proposed.  He is of the opinion that all good adverts from P&G and any other company boils down to selling more soap and powder which is basically making profit. To him the powerful competitive advantage is to be found in creativity and innovation.


“If Pritchard really wants to slap the wrists of the global networks, create change and sell more soap powder, I urge him to look harder at more innovative and new world agency partner options. I encourage him to look at different models (Hearts and Science being one) and different ways of delivering competitive advantage in media. Mix it up, Experiment. Try something new. Right in this moment P&G has such a big opportunity to reset how clients and agencies work. Don’t blow it”. He said


A humorous and tongue in cheek response from, the Outdoor Advertising Association of America  caught the eye. They put up six billboards near the P&G headquarters in Cincinnati shouting “Hey Marc, This ad is real”. According to the OAAA Chief Marketing Officer Stephen Freitas, “The idea isn’t entirely about poking fun at viewership problems of digital media. It is meant to portray out-of-home as a perfect complement to the digital space, because it is out there in the real world and can help guide you to some of that digital content”.

An emerging issue for agencies and publishers – misplacement

In related news, web brand misplacement seems to be an issue on the rise. Major brands are putting a stop to advertising with Google. The reason for this is because company advertisements are being placed along side inappropriate content on the internet.


Brands to pull out of its advertising spends with Google and YouTube recently include the French media group Havas (UK & Ireland), Channel 4, Core Media, Verizon, AT&T, Johnson & Johnson and Enterpirse. Other are sure to follow. According to the UK CEO of Havas Media Paul Frampton, the company has a duty of care to their clients to position their brands in the right context where the environment is safe, regulated to the degree necessary and in line to their brand objectives.


According to the Irish Independent, “Companies such as Marks & Spencer, McDonald’s and Tesco have already withdrawn advertising from Google in the UK because of their ads being placed within extremist YouTube videos”.  Twitter user AdContrarian also posted a tweet recently on this  speculating, ” Heard on the street: McDonald’s USA is about to cancel all its Google/YouTube/DoubleClick advertising. This is starting to look serious”.


In conclusion, what is likely going to happen to the digital industry if crap is promoted on a daily basis rather than craft? What would happen if multi-billion dollar companies like P&G pull out of the digital marketing economy?  Lastly can this action plan be implemented in the digital industry?

ByBlessing Duke