Most digital advertising is bullshit. Especially the ad networks. These stories are everywhere. And I just heard another one, on the phone. Want proof? It’s already out there. And I have plenty of personal experience and sources.
I know a CEO of a digital ad firm that says that most of the people he deals with are sleazy and lie. I have several personal experiences of ad buys in which I was getting nothing for something. I also have several colleagues with similar proof and dozens of other pieces of evidence that digital advertising is rife with fraud.
“We tried [an ad network] and it sucked,” says a marketing manager I know, who (obviously) didn’t want me to use his name. “They didn’t deliver on one single metric they sold us.”
And then there’s this:
- Confessions of a Fake Ad Traffic Buyer
- Phony Web Traffic Tricks Digital Ads
- Adtech Execs Say Online Advertising is Riddled With Fraud
- Full Cost of Adtech Fraud May be $400 Million Per Year
- Fake Traffic Is Causing a Crisis for Advertisers
Or what about the outfit I know that employs well-meaning college studients to click and comment on content? Does that help the advertiser, really?
So is it true? Of course it is. And isn’t it a bit ironic, given that the alleged advantage of the entire industry is that results are measurable?
Of course, your reaction is: “Of Course.” But then why do people keep buying it?
A lot of the marketing managers don’t care. If they get somebody who can report to them that the advertising worked, that’s half the battle. They don’t really want to know if it worked. They just want a nice-looking report to take to their CEO, a senior marketing executive told me (on background, of course, because this is like reporting on the mafia in Brooklyn).
Right now, the media world is in existential crisis. Older martini-drinking journalists have been fired. This existential crisis probably accelerated when Jeff Bezos bought the Washington Post for only $250 million. And Jeff Bezos is an old geezer, compared to the Facebookers and Snapchatters of the world. What happens when Mark Zuckerberg buys the New York Times? What good is a staid, old media brand now when some young whippernapper can create an audience of 100s of millions out of thin air in a nanosecond?
Snapchat. $3 Billion. Not enough.
Yes, the old media guys are screwed.
But wait… there may be a third act. What if people slowly realize that digital advertising kind of sucks? And that so much of this digital stuff is ephemeral and has the half life of a piece of sushi?
Example: You spend a few thousand on a Twitter test but then the money’s gone and none of the people seem to be “real” or actual customers of what you want.
Or, the promises of making millions on PPC (Pay-per-Click) doesn’t work anymore because PPC has just gotten kind of expensive and doesn’t deliver the way it once might have (though I never had luck, frankly).
Or, you spend a many thousands on Google AdWords (been there, done that) only to discover that it’s “drive-by traffic,” as they say in the business, the millions of eyeballs go to your pages for a microsecond, none of it sticks, and none of them comes back. Because they are in India? Because they are Google robots? Who knows? I just know that a Google PPC click is way below the kind of lead you get when you shake hands with a guy in a suit at the bar at an industry conference.
And those examples aren’t even the fraudulent ones.
Meanwhile, you set up a blog, and slowly people subscribe, and you build a real email list, and they actually call to talk to you on the phone because they are real people in the industry.
This is real, hard work, but it’s not going to make you rich fast. Because the allure of millions of digital eyeballs is instant gratification. That’s why people like the fantasy and allure of some magic digital ad product that is a silver bullet.
But most of it is not real. And I hope that most of these firms — many of them fraudulent, just collapse. I hope there are investigations.
Then maybe real media brands will have a chance again. Real readers beat fake readers.
That’s the good news. Eventually, somehow, most people will realize this. They’ll want better customer service. And they’ll go back to more genuine brands with real audiences.
This will probably be a slow process and will take years, and the former glory outfits will never be the same again. But at least people will at some point realize what’s going on. They have to.
Now, anybody want to buy some advertising?