Bob Liodice and Marc Pritchard took to the bully pulpit at the ANA’s Masters of Marketing conference yesterday, and kept up the pressure on the adtech shysters who steal our money. As Liodice said, “CMOs operate in the most nontransparent marketing ecosystem in our industry’s history. The willingness to trade off transparency for digital and technological innovation is over.”
JPMorgan Chase CMO Kristin Lemkau called for marketers to take more control, when she said, “Ad fraud is getting worse, and there are 5,000 ad tech, mar tech, whatever tech companies that all say they have the answers. You can no longer entrust it to an agency, a platform or a machine.”
They are all correct.
The Curse of the Shiny Object
As marketers, we have to take ownership for our media decisions and not delegate it to the shiniest, most AI-ish, most machine learning technology that claims to make everything easy and automatic. Marketers are susceptible to charlatans and quick-buck artists like no other profession, and the ad tech and mar tech vendors have made a killing because of that flaw.
Now buying media is actually hard to do–forget what the automatic, set-and-forget programmatic/AI/whatever huckster says in their white paper. But I have an idea of how to fix it, in the form of The Checklist Manifesto: How to Get Things Right, a book highly recommended by the great Denny Hatch.
Denny liked it so much he wrote this 83 point ultimate marketing checklist, which I suggest you laminate, give to every marketing staffer, and hang on your walls. Your results will immediately improve, so please send Mr. Hatch a note of thanks for creating the checklist.
A Checklist for Digital Media
When flying a plane, skipping something small early on can have disastrous consequences. It’s the same when selecting media for a digital campaign, especially when you have gremlins in the form of questionable technology, bad code, and bad data tearing at the wings of your campaign.
Here’s a short list created for your digital media plan, in the form of a “READ-DO” checklist, which means you read the item, then you do it.
- Does the seller of the media have authorization to sell it? Call the owner of the media to confirm. Y/N
- Is any of the traffic on the site sourced from traffic brokers (i.e. it’s bot traffic)? Y/N
- If #2 is “Y,” how much and can I exclude that traffic? (If >10%* and/or “No” don’t buy)
- Will you guarantee me a non-bot viewability rate of X%? Y/N
- Will you submit to a fraud audit by my auditor? Y/N
- Will you sell me your inventory directly? Y/N
Complete the above for every line on your media plan.
My rationale for the questions, and whether each one is a show-stopper:
- Show-stopper. If you find some media on an exchange, see if the owner of the media allows that media to be sold via that exchange. Don’t take the exchange’s word for it. You’d be surprised how many sellers of inventory don’t have the rights to do so.
- Problem to address. Brokered traffic is bot traffic. See asterisk below for more.
- Show-stopper. You never want to pay a nickel for bot traffic because a) it doesn’t work; and b) the clicks and “views” it creates pollutes your analytics platforms.
- Problem to address. This means you’ll get below-the-fold placements which you’ll have to monitor and account for as you analyze the media performance.
- Show-stopper. If you can’t get full audit rights from the publisher, exchange, or whoever is selling it, don’t buy it. They’re hiding something.
- Problem to address. If the media is working, and they’re a publisher of any size, you should be able to purchase the media directly from the publisher. Cut out the ad tech tax and you both make more money.
Takeaway: Model pilots and surgeons in your marketing by using checklists. Make fewer mistakes. And win.
* You may wonder why I say to not buy the media if the sourced percentage is >10%, if they are honest and disclose it. The answer is “shenanigans.” If they’re sourcing traffic to create ad units, that means they can pull the wool over somebody else’s eyes to make money. And if they’re doing one thing shady, they’re dishonest and doing other things wrong. Best and safest to just stay away.