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There’s a war raging in the marketing and advertising field. It’s a clash of ideologies. There are those practicing deceit, knowingly and unknowingly. Others are just so focused on short-term self-interest that they forgo any chance of mutually beneficial long-term relationships.
These are the 10 plagues afflicting marketing today. Each is paired with a “commandment” that agencies, brands, publishers, and technology vendors can follow to reverse the course of the epidemic.
[This thesis was initially delivered as a talk at a private conference hosted by an Israeli venture capital firm.]
1) Trust disintegration: Trust among all parties — agencies, brands, publishers, tech vendors — seems to be at an all-time low. This lack of trust evokes the plague of blood: It seeps into every dealing and interaction, and it threatens our livelihoods. All the other plagues stem from this and worsen it.
Commandment: Thou shalt put your clients’ and partners’ interests first — even above your own.
2) Shinynewobjectism: How distracting it must have been to be bombarded by one frog after another. Marketers are constantly trying to juggle the distractions of the latest buzzwords rather than focusing on what will drive the most business impact. Granted, marketers do need a portfolio approach, with calculated bets on what will matter most in the future.
Commandment: Thou shalt prioritize what works while planning for what’s next.
3) Federalization: The U.S. federal government, mirroring governments elsewhere, is taking a greater interest in advertising, from influencer marketing to ad blocking. Some may see this as overdue, while others see it as overreaching. Regardless, it’s happening, largely because the government no longer trusts efforts at self-policing. The swarm of regulations will multiply until we do more to show it’s not needed.
Commandment: Thou shalt stay on the right side of the law — and try to do so even before such laws are written.
4) Fraud: The fourth plague is so tough to parse that one can’t tell if the Biblical text refers to flies or beasts. If the ancient Egyptians weren’t sure what hit them, neither are billions of internet users or the marketers who pay for ads that are neither seen nor clicked. It’s time for a zero-tolerance policy for fraud.
Commandment: Thou shalt verify the good and disqualify the bad — even if your reporting suffers in the short-term.
5) Robotization: When the cattle died from disease, so did any kind of livelihood security. A different kind of plague will affect many marketing professionals’ livelihoods. Robots are rising, and that is great for some kinds of efficiency. But it won’t be without consequences, as not as many people will be needed to buy media, analyze it, and report on it. Clients will be able to do more themselves without the need for third-party involvement.
Commandment: Thou shalt make way for robots while honing safer skills like strategy and leadership.
6) Recessionism: Once you’re hit with boils, it seems like they stick around forever. Even when they’re gone, they’ve left their mark. The same is true for recession-era thinking. Since 2008, unemployment has been down and the stock market’s up, but the recession mentality lingers, along with the need for caution and cost savings.
Commandment: Thou shalt plan for growth and reward the partners that deliver it…with your trust.
7) Long live the ROI (the ROI is dead): The great news is marketers are thinking more about the return on investment they’re getting from marketing. Yet a rainstorm that seems nourishing can reveal itself to be hail. A focus entirely on direct response starves and underserves brand marketers. Brand marketers still need better ways to determine digital ad effectiveness while keeping creativity flowing.
Commandment: Thou shalt create value for brand advertisers through metrics — and ideas — that matter.
8) Ad avoidance: When the crops were devoured by locust swarms, there was nothing left for people to eat. When ad blocker swarms rose up, many publishers started starving. With ad blocking, if there’s a way, there’s a will — it doesn’t matter so much why people block ads, but that once people have the option to, they embrace it.
Commandment: Thou shalt accept that no one covets advertising, so ensure thine ads are really seen.
9) Banner blindness: Even when ads are delivered as intended, few people notice them. A big part of the problem is that most online advertising isn’t what gets featured at Cannes or in Adweek. Instead, it’s terrible creative that’s poorly targeted. It’s then blasted out, with tons of ads served on every page. We’ve trained people to not look.
Commandment: Thou shalt accept responsibility for creative — not just targeting and viewability.
10) Death of the first click (and the last): “Death of the last click” would have been more accurate, but first-click attribution is faulty as well. The death of such oversimplified metrics has been a long time coming, but advances in software, analytics methodologies, and marketer sophistication will paint a truer attribution picture.
Commandment: Thou shalt show the impact of your ads and marketing in the online and offline path to purchase.
The Passover story is ultimately one of sacrifices — those made by the Israelite slaves, as well as by Egyptians who suffered under Pharaoh’s tyranny and stubbornness. All of us in the marketing and ad fields will have to make sacrifices to fulfill these commandments. That includes sacrificing inventory for value, quick wins for long-term relationships, easily manipulated metrics for true business value, and assumptions for questions. It’s the sacrifices that will lead to our newfound freedom and the salvation of our field.
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