Taking the short-term view has consequences

27 Mar 2017  |  Tim Gentry 
Taking the short-term view has consequences

To help explain the appearance of ads next to inappropriate content, we should take a look at our industry’s obsession with short-termism, writes Videology's Tim Gentry

There are many reasons why brand ads could end up next to offensive videos. We could explore the way that audience buying technology works or we could delve deep into the algorithms that offer up impressions. We could even ask whether putting brands next to user generated content is ever sensible.

It might make more sense, however, to ask whether our industry’s constant push for short term gains encourages decisions that have unpleasant consequences, for both publishers and the brands that advertise with them.

It’s a fact that the risk of brands appearing next to offensive content has been known for some time. It’s been publicised before and not just in the trade press. And yet it still happens.

So let’s instead ask why our industry was willing to take those risks. Perhaps it was because the average tenure of a CMO is now just 18 months according to Marketing Society figures - the pressure is constantly on to get results and quickly.

That pushes more campaigns to be direct, designed for sales impact. It makes every agency relationship focused on cost. Which in turn encourages agencies to keep media prices low, which in turn requires the use of cheaper, riskier media options.

The irony, of course, is that all this is occurring in an environment where there has never been a greater supply of high quality media – much of which is not effectively monetised.

This is not the approach that all advertisers take, but enough have done so to create the climate in which the growing pains of digital media buying can suddenly explode and become front page news.

The alternative, of course, is to take a longer-term approach. It may not pay off so quickly but ultimately great brands are not built overnight.

The alternative is to remember that great advertising content performs best in great editorial environments. This is a media truism that remains true in digital.

Videology’s recent study with Gain Theory found that when quality environments reached 60% of the investment mix, including Broadcaster VOD, video ROI was 2.5x higher vs solus TV.

As Marc Pritchard said so recently, it’s time for brands to vote with their wallets to create the kind of brand-safe digital ecosystem that we all want. Many are taking welcome action but more need to make that active choice.

That means taking a much greater interest in and developing an understanding of the platforms that deliver digital advertising today.

It means understanding the trade-offs they make when they prioritise cost over quality. It also means having the tools in place to make active choices about minimum quality.

Advertisers and their agencies need to task their technology partners to establish and implement robust solutions for the management of acceptable and appropriate inventory sources for their campaigns.

There is a spectrum of choices between spray and pray and premium quality but right now brands don’t always know if they are making that choice.

The balance will be different for each advertiser but they should knowingly decide where their limits are.

It’s time for agencies to support marketers by explicitly surfacing the choices that are being made to sacrifice quality in support of lowering cost; and it’s time for quality media owners to speak with a stronger united voice that proves the value of context.

It’s time for brand marketers to step forward and acknowledge their responsibilities, the impact of the decisions they are making and recognise the consequences.

The truth is that brands that make the decision to focus longer-term are less likely to be tempted by cheap impressions in those parts of the digital ecosystem that don’t have the tools to deal with issues of brand safety.


Tim Gentry is SVP advertisers and agencies at Videology

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