Digital advertising woes show the need to develop your own networks

Major advertisers and agencies have been pulling big money from digital platforms like YouTube because of worries about dodgy ad placements as well as measurable return on investment. It’s a reminder that businesses should be using the tools available to them to build their own networks of influence rather than only relying on advertising spending.

Problems were flagged with YouTube in particular a few months ago as companies were alerted to the fact their ads were appearing on channels and videos that promoted racist and extremist views. Major advertisers like Procter & Gamble (P&G) and Walmart are among the big names to have yanked ads from video sharing site, citing consumer trust and brand reputation damage for their decisions. For example, P&G recently announced it would cut its digital ad spend in the US market by $US140 million in the new financial year.

But beyond the problem of being associated with white supremacy or radical jihad sites, there’s the more systemic issue of how to measure the effectiveness of online advertising because of the widespread claims of fraud levelled at the practice of programmatic advertising.

Programmatic advertising is basically automated ad buying, which matches ads to websites according to an algorithm. In theory, it sounds great; but in practice it hasn’t always worked out so well. There have been many doubts about the efficacy of programmatic buying and one estimate says advertisers engaged in such programs could be losing $16.4 billion a year in total because of viewability and fraud issues associated with the practice.

Whether it concerns one of the biggest companies in the world or a small business, at the heart of this issue is the control companies have over where their message appears and to whom.

It serves as a reminder to companies and brands that they themselves can take responsibility for a good portion of their marketing and who sees it, without having to throw money into the black hole of programmatic advertising.

This isn’t about totally discounting the value in either online advertising or traditional advertising. Or even programmatic buying. These can all play a part in a company’s overall marketing strategy. As with any strategy, it’s about understanding what you have at your disposal and how you can use that to effect an outcome.

The thing is that smart brands can now control so much of the narrative because they can generate content that is (when done well) relevant and engaging to their target audience. They also have the expanded means to push that content out to an audience on their own website, through social media networks, and across affiliated networks and third party publishers. And they can create networks and partnerships that can help them and associated brands reach the people they want to reach. They have greater control over their message and who sees it, which seems to make more sense than hoping for the best.

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