You remember the promise at the turn of the 21st century: online advertising will provide comprehensive data and proof of effectiveness, all with incredible new opportunities for interactivity. This statement could also be called “The Great Digital Over-Promise.”
Nearly two decades later, marketers are finding themselves in the awkward position of having sold a dream and a promise that has faltered under real-world conditions. Jessica Davies described the current state of online advertising in Digiday, writing that “online advertising is under the microscope, thanks in large part to the rise in ad blocking.” Davies’ assertion is reinforced by research conducted by Adobe and PageFair, which reveals that as much as 28% of U.S. internet users may have ad blocking enabled.
Ad blocking, fraud, viewability and a host of other challenges have bruised online advertising’s reputation and left many marketers in the unenviable position of buying something they may not completely believe in, nor can perfectly demonstrate its effectiveness.
In a stroke of irony, online advertising finds itself in the position most other forms of traditional advertising have dealt with their entire existence: everybody knows advertising works, yet no one can prove exactly how or when or why. As the old adage goes, half of advertising works — we just don’t know which half in today’s digital age.
This creates an environment that every tech startup and marketer has been trying to overcome for decades. In the end, advertising remains just as much about faith as fact.
Expectations, Expectations, Expectations
Online advertising is effective, but marketers have been trained to expect far more from it than other forms of media. This means that every false data point and report of impropriety is under a level of scrutiny rarely applied to other media channels. If marketers had access to data that showed every missed billboard impression, for instance, every distracted driver, or every overcast day that affected billboard legibility, we might see an upheaval in pricing and demand.
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