Is digital marketing broken?

You’ve seen the statistics regarding online ad fraud. They’re staggering because media agencies and marketers have allowed it to happen. Online ad fraud could be eliminated by having your agency or analytic department analyze the metrics. The other problem is that programmatic advertising is a complete failure.

I attended a client meeting last week that was highly uncomfortable. The brand manager spent at least ten minutes reviewing their digital marketing performance when the SVP of Sales asked, “then why are our sales down so much?”. The silence in the room was deafening.

One of the areas our consulting group is often asked to do is analyze online ad metrics. Frankly, I can’t remember the last time we couldn’t find substantial fraud where money seems to have just disappeared into a black hole.

Now that we seem to be headed into a recession, marketers are again under a microscope to provide ROI. Even though my background is in online marketing, I can’t honestly say that online paid media is the best choice for maximum ROI. Most media agencies don’t want to do the necessary work to ensure that online ads are placed on reputable sites. The other issue is the lack of creative for online ads. Most are just repurposed offline ads.

Digital marketing was broken when the so-called self-branded experts told us we must be online. These were the same people who tried to tell us that if we weren’t on Facebook, we were committing marketing suicide. They used their short time in the spotlight to write books and act like big shots while speaking at marketing conferences. Too many brain-dead marketers fell into this void and wasted billions of dollars on paid media. Even when Google released studies that showed organic search outperformed paid search, marketers continued to inflate their SEO budgets with poor results.

The other HUGE issue is that paid media creative is not designed to communicate to an audience who feels that three seconds is a lifetime. Better to have an ad on a page with three other ads and talk about impressions than metrics that really matter.

Is all digital marketing broken? No. I’ve had great results when we chose sites relevant to our target audience and created a series of ads meant to run online. We didn’t measure clicks or impressions; we measured pages viewed, bounce rate, and time on site via ads and ensured that return visitors to targeted sites never saw the same ad twice.

I’m trying to communicate here that the tools to measure digital marketing exist, but most brands are too lazy or too cheap to invest in an excellent marketing analytics department. I still hear, “we have $500K; let’s park it in digital quickly”. Then I spend hours billing clients to analyze what their ads didn’t work.

One of the biggest coconspirators in broken digital marketing has been the IAB. They haven’t been truthful about what they know, and in this bloggers, opinion have lost all creditability. They could have been the leader in cutting online ad fraud, but they have decided to accept that it exists and nothing can be done to stop it. Another client wanted me on a call when they told their online agency that they wanted metrics for their online ad buy, and if there were fraud, they would reduce the invoice amount. The agency replied, “we can’t control online ad fraud.” That’s when I texted the manager and said, “that’s bullshit.”

Digital marketing is broken to the extent that brands are willing to settle for poor results. It could be a hell of a lot better if only they demanded more accountability.

About richmeyer

Rich is a passionate marketer who is able to quickly understand what turns a prospect into a customer. He challenges the status quo and always asks "what can we do better"? He knows how to take analytics and turn them into opportunities and he is a great communicator.

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