Reaching consumers is a constant challenge for marketers and advertisers competing in an increasingly noisy marketplace. However, consumer reaction to digital marketing suggests that some efforts may be doing more harm than good. Lewis Gersh (@LewisGersh), CEO of PebblePost, which invented Programmatic Direct Mail, believes that digital marketing has become more ineffective and disrespectful to consumers. Below, he shares his thoughts on how digital marketing has stopped serving the needs of consumers and his top tips for how marketers can get back on track.
Q: Why do you think the digital marketing industry has stopped giving respect to consumers?
A: Digital marketing started out great and, like almost every marketing channel, progressively became ineffective and disrespectful as it matured. "Why" is not as complicated as it may seem. When marketing is done right, brands find harmony between efficiency (low cost) and efficacy (performance) toward reaching a goal. Consumers will tell you a good deal about what they like and don't like, and brands have this enormous power to use that data to tailor personal responses that consumers actually desire and act on. But like many channels before it, digital marketing's efficacy began to erode as the space became crowded and noisy. Brands then pumped up the volume of their messages so that ads follow you from site to site and across devices. The technique got overused and crossed into abusive, proven by consumers' need to use an ad blocker just to use the web without being disrupted.
Q: What are some of the factors that have contributed to this decline?
A: Marketers want results. Their jobs depend on it. So they focus on efficiency to do more with less. This exacerbates the disrespectful situation and worsens the overserving abuse of the consumer, including going deeper in the well of privacy invasion. Publishers are under greater pressure to produce ad revenue, often at the expense of their user experience. Takeovers, autoplay, popups, and popunders interrupt the user experience and make it harder to get to the desirable content. In my opinion, they also erode consumer trust in both the publisher and the marketer trying to get their attention. Digital marketing has faced enormous challenges with ad fraud, brand safety, viewability, inconsistent or incorrect measurement, privacy violations. All of this exacerbates the impending decline of digital marketing. I can see a 50 percent reset coming soon. Regulatory and legal may cause this suddenly.
Q: How can advertisers remedy this?
A: The industry as a whole should stand together to root out the bad actors and practices. Marc Pritchard from P&G and The New York Times CEO Mark Thompson have been very vocal about the ad industry's abuses. I've written about how advertisers can show respect for consumers and their brand by valuing the "healthy impression." It starts by investing in respectful and relevant marketing. Remember that marketers are consumers too. Check your own online preferences (e.g., best user experience) before you wreck your brand. My top three tips include:
- Do your due diligence about where your partners get their data — and where their partners get their data.
- Fight ad fraud and demand accountability from publishers.
- Make all ads contextual and stop overserving consumers.
- And one more for good measure, steer clear of invasions of privacy in how you collect data.