Trust me, I'm in Advertising

01 May 2018  |  Joe Lewis 
Trust me, I'm in Advertising

We need advertising to work - and we need to be willing and honest enough to say when it doesn’t. By Joe Lewis

There’s an issue with trust in advertising. Whether it’s the latest from the Edelman Trust Barometer or the recent goings-on from data harvesting, it’s clear there is much for us to do as an industry.

Trust is essential to how our ecosystem works. We need consumers to trust our messages, our products and our services. We need advertisers to trust that their messages are getting to those they wish to reach.

Underpinning all of this, we need data exchanges that we can trust and rely upon to tell us the truth about how our campaigns are performing.

Trust, of course, is not a new thing in this industry, and is something we’ve been tackling for some time, and with much success. No longer do we see detergent adverts claiming to make our clothes ‘whiter than white’, soon followed with a new and improved formula with the promise of being ‘even whiter’ (that’s right, ‘a white, whiter than a white whiter than white’).

You can say what you like about the creatives in modern day television, radio or traditional print advertisements, but, by and large, we can trust that they are not misleading the consumer. That’s something we should celebrate.

For planning and buying however, I fear there is less to celebrate. The onset of online delivery of media and the ability to harness data on users has been heralded as ‘a new accountable era’; no longer would we need old-fashioned concepts such as sample surveys of actual people to measure exposure to campaigns.

New ‘ad-tech’, there to make our planning and execution more efficient, would each gather micro-data touchpoints on the interactions of users, devices and people. It would be a golden age of measuring effectiveness and attribution.

When I first saw the Luma Digital Advertising Landscape chart back in 2010, it was presented as thing of beauty, proudly showing the meticulous and seamless process to get creative from marketer to publisher. To me it looked a mess, it looked far from accountable, and least of all for me, it looked far from measurable. I absolutely hated it.

We now have an ecosystem with multiple competing online distributors, platforms, DSPs, DMPs, exchanges (I could go on), all of which collect their own data on performance. To a point, this is great, or at least it should be, but not when they all mean different things and are each individually being used to claim the effectiveness of a distribution, platform or media, often contradicting each other. It is hard to know what the truth is any more.

And this is where I’m going to be slightly controversial. I believe there is a public purpose in what we do, all of us, in making advertising work. We’re not doctors, nurses, teachers or firefighters, but by helping make advertising work, we help companies succeed, grow, employ, pay tax, increase the utility of the country, I could go on.

We are a Keynesian cog in the economic machine of the UK if you like. This is one of the reasons I’m passionate about what we do, and the importance of telling the truth in what we do. Truth matters. We need advertising to work, and we need to be willing and honest enough to say when it doesn’t.

Truth is not something to fear, but to engage with. It can be our friend if we use it properly. In the film Crazy People (if you haven’t seen it, I thoroughly recommend it, the copy for the Jaguar ad is quite something), they use truth in advertising to successfully engage consumers by talking to them honestly and gaining their trust.

I’d love it if we practiced a similar trait. Too often I’m sat in an audience watching someone present, making a claim that they can “100% eliminate wastage”, or their new programmatic platform can “micro target all left-handed table tennis players in the Tyne Tees area” and there is no verification of this. But it’s presented as fact, of course they can, and I must be a Luddite.

This is why, more than ever, we need industry measurement bodies. Industry bodies by their very nature, are run by the industry, for the industry, and are there to bring to life a consistent truth across media: who is doing what, where, how and when?

I won’t pretend the industry bodies we currently have are all things to all people, they aren’t, and to be honest, they may never be. But we should embrace them all the same.

For online, we now have multiple bodies, helping bring clarity to that Luma chart of my nightmares. We have JICWEBs and ABC setting standards for measuring and reporting of online placement and delivery of content, and UKOM, which holistically measures who is consuming that content.

All of these try to set a clear level playing field for media players in which to be measured, and for marketers in which to assess the real differences and distinctiveness in delivery.

For me, critically, with UKOM, we get a measure of actual people and not just devices. An independent measure of the reach and consumption of a brand in terms of an actual audience. One in which we can also plan and assess against other media.

In a world of click through, conversion, bounce and cost per visit rates (to name but a few), knowing holistically and independently how people are using the internet across desktop, tablet and mobile is refreshing. For sure it could be better, and it will evolve, as all measurement bodies are evolving, but UKOM needs the industry to engage for it to do this, and I sincerely hope this happens, as it’s in all our interests.

Measurement is not easy, it’s hard, it’s complicated, and it doesn’t always give us the answers we want. But it’s vitally important to our industry’s future and to ensure we understand when advertising is effective and when it isn’t, and as an industry we need to come together to make this happen.

As for me, I’m going to keep grappling to understand how they worked out that 8 out of 10 cats ‘preferred’ a type of cat food.


Joe Lewis is Founder & Director of Measured Media Consulting

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