One of the important responsibilities of the advertising industry is to be an "honest broker" between our clients and the media.
We have failed miserably.
While we have been aggressive about detailing the woes of traditional media -- the decline of the newspaper business; the problems of radio; the movement away from network television -- we have glossed over or completely ignored the shortcomings of the web as an advertising medium.
We have failed to educate our clients on the serious deficiencies related to web advertising:
- 62% of web traffic is reportedly phony
- 54% of display ads paid for reportedly never ran
- 57% of video ads paid for are apparently never seen
- Fraud and corruption are massive and reportedly in the billions
- Interaction with display advertising is essentially non-existent (1 in a thousand)
- As much as half of all video viewed on line may be porn
- Regardless of what media buyers say, nobody knows where their online ads run
WPP, the world's largest agency network, currently derives about 1/3 of its revenue of $16 billion from digital work and is aiming for 45% to come from the web within a few years.
Not only is income from digital sources rising, smart agencies have discovered how to squeeze more profit from this income than from traditional advertising.
For one thing, online work is never done. A website is never finished, a social media or content program always needs feeding, and display advertising always needs optimizing. If you're charging by the hour -- and your profit is built into your hourly rate -- more work always means more profit.
But when you're doing traditional work and you're on a monthly retainer or fee, more work means less profit.
The ad industry has become the web's lapdog -- exaggerating the effectiveness of social media marketing, ignoring the abominable click-through rates of "interactive" advertising, glossing over the fraud and corruption, and becoming a de facto sales arm for the online ad industry.
Self-interest has come into conflict with responsibility.
Guess what's winning?