“It’s time to grow up. It’s time for action.”
Marc Pritchard, CEO of Procter and Gamble, shared these words with digital advertisers worldwide in 2017, and the statement echoes into today’s advertising technology landscape. A year after Pritchard’s commanding words, Keith Weed of Unilever joined the drum circle, calling on advertisers and publishers to “drain the swamp” of the ad-tech industry’s worst offenders. Just days past the GDPR deadline, new stories on brand safety, transparency and more, are published daily, and the swamp has never been better primed for drainage as it is today.
While tempting to play the comment off as simply a timely one-liner, Weed’s intent was clear: It was a mandate for the digital ad industry to clean up its act if it is to continue to grow into the dominant method of consumer engagement.
The swampy players Weed and Pritchard referred to have eroded trust within digital advertising at a fundamental level. A combination of deliberate bad actions, poor business practices and an overall Wild West environment has allowed an almost “anything goes” mentality to spread—as long as baseline advertisers received a return on investment.
Nowhere has this mentality been more prevalent than in ad tech. Widespread fraud, counterfeiting of publisher inventory, unethical financial arrangements, hidden fees and rise of mediocre technology have helped the swamp overflow. Literally thousands of companies are attempting to peddle their services and take a share of the half-trillion-dollar advertising pie today.
This is the environment Unilever’s Weed sees when he looks out at the advertising landscape, and this is why so many have joined a growing chorus recognizing that, in today’s market, choosing whether or not to invest in or partner with those committed to quality is a choice every participant must make.