Too many industry groups and people in digital advertising are enamored of technology. They continue to forget creativity. When was the last time you heard anyone say, “Wow…that was a great banner ad!”

About a month ago, I was visiting a good friend at J. Walter Thompson, the global ad agency where I was the Founder and CEO of digital@jwt from 98′-05′. They have the Rolex account. Rolex represents elegance and complex simplicity. In digital advertising, Rolex often does what’s called a takeover. They don’t just run an ad; they take over the entire site and app like the New York Times. The ad they use to this day is an ad created by my team at digital@jwt more than a decade ago. The watch synchronizes with the clock on your computer or phone. It’s exact. The ad is simple and elegant and reinforces the beauty and complex simplicity of the brand…and it is big.

I have a fundamental belief; the digital advertising ecosystem needs to be blown up! A new creative standard must be developed using the entire screen. No ads should appear in content. Ads should appear, before or after action. I believe this because ads must connect with consumers on some level and the current format’s connections with consumers can be boiled down to one word “annoying.” Not the emotion brands are spending so much to capture.

Roger Keating of Hearst recently stated “Quality impressions purchased directly from a trusted publisher may cost more than what is available on an exchange or ad network, but you know exactly what you are getting. Step away from the automated buying platforms. They’ve been hijacked.”

What he forgets is the ad on Hearst’s properties are the same as the rest of the ecosystem. They’re small, intrusive and easily ignored.

So how do we fix this dynamic? Three answers: Creative! Creative! Creative!

The only way to fix digital advertising is to change digital advertising. Anyone that says the panacea is video is out of his or her mind! I have long been a lone voice in the digital world, within the IAB, MMA, and anywhere people will listen that the creative format of digital advertising must change.

Until the format of ads change from the 300×50 or 300×250 to a full screen engaging experience, advertising will suffer. If advertising suffers, publishers and content creators suffer. If publishers and content creators suffer, consumers suffer.

Lou Paskalis of BofA said he agreed with this thesis. He said, “If premium publishers go away, I have no place to put my ads.” Well, Lou, we are headed down that road.

There are immutable truths in the digital business: Google is a company that helps consumers “find stuff” and Facebook is a company that helps people “share stuff.” Neither company “makes stuff.” Hearst, Conde Nast, Gannett, Tribune, Scripps, Comcast, NewsCorp, Viacom, etc. makes stuff! Really, really good stuff.

My passion is ensuring that the companies that make stuff thrive and derive the requisite value for their work. The current model is eroding the value of really good content.

The ad formats and sharing formats supported by Google and Facebook essentially level the playing field between the professional content creators and everyone else. Case in point is the blurred line between real news and fake news. Advertisers used to aspire to have their ads surround quality content. Within the network ecosystem, a brand advertiser’s ad is featured next to good and bad content without regard for context.

All content is NOT equal and the ads that surround great content must live up to the quality OF that content.

Case in point: Snap Inc. just filed for their IPO at a valuation of $25,000,000,000. That valuation is based on one thing, advertising. There are no banners on SnapChat.

The biggest challenge is breaking through the duopoly that exists with Google and Facebook. I know, there’s a better model and Google and Facebook aren’t going to benefit from its creation.

I will get down off my soapbox now and leave you with one more thought; content creators must have a higher respect for the relationship between their content and the ads that surround that content.

I pose a challenge to major brand marketers like P&G, Unilever, Pepsi, Ford, etc.; balance the need for better creative with the obsession over viewability, measurement and programmatic. Fix the ad format and the technologies created for the ad ecosystem will fulfill their promise.

“Ac dolor ac adipiscing amet bibendum nullam, lacus molestie ut libero nec diam
et, pharetra sodales, feugiat ullamcorper id tempor id vitae.”

-James T. Kirk



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