During most market corrections — when the Dow drops by 10 percent or more — equity investors are reminded to take a long-term view, and to sit tight and ride it out. Most corrections don’t result in bear markets, after all; particularly when market fundamentals are strong.
This is not a financial advice post, however.
We are undergoing a market correction of another sort, perhaps more aptly described as a marketplace correction. Except there are no pullbacks or declines here — it’s instead about protecting and projecting long-term growth. This correction has been under way at least since 2017 (and arguably before that), when Procter & Gamble’s Marc Pritchard made his urgent address at IAB’s Annual Leadership Meeting — and IAB CEO Randall Rothenberg reminded us to get out of the “fake anything” business. This correction continues in 2018.
In this market, we are the investors — holding active positions in the long-term health and well-being of the data-driven marketing marketplace. And the last thing we should do is “sit tight and ride it out.”
We all have an active role to play in “steering in a new direction,” for example, in making sure human activity, not bots, are the brand engagement and performance metrics we are measuring – and compensating.
The bots are usually associated with programmatic media buying, which dominates the buying and selling of digital display — where the majority of media buys are very much legitimate, but not wholly so. The “walled gardens” — largely, the social media platforms, among others — too have had to answer to policymakers as to why and how their targeting algorithms have been being duped by ill-minded foreign agents. How do we bring transparency to the social advertising we see — at least in political ads, where labeling and disclosures rules are now in force across other media categories?
But one of my clients — Stirista CEO Ajay Gupta — reminds us that it isn’t just online ads where fraud may be being perpetrated: Even email campaigns can be undermined by fake accounts, running up open and click-through rates which falsify an accurate reading of results.
We don’t need a European-style “data protection” law that would strip the digital marketplace of wholly beneficial intelligence — and hurt business, innovation, competition, journalism and diversity of content in the process. We also don’t need to denigrate the proven value of third-party data in if and how we append our first-party data, gain deeper understanding of our customers and build better models in the process. Both of these “throw out the baby” outcomes would be recipes for failure.
But we do need to tend to our long-term growth — keeping focus on end-users (consumers) and the brands and publishers who seek to employ intelligent and responsible ad tech, marketing tech and relevant data to give customers more precisely what they want.
We need to be active investors — more so because we know precisely that market fundamentals remain strong. Fraud is fraud. And fake is fraud. But advertising itself is not fraud, and neither is relevant content. We — the purveyors of advertising, marketing and relevant content — are victims of fraud, too. And we have the most to lose if we don’t audit our data sources, document and validate actual customer and prospect permissions and preferences, decoy our data and networks, test for bot fraud, and isolate and eradicate bad players.
There are great minds who have come together to tackle these issues — through our trade associations, self-regulatory programs and working group initiatives. As data-driven marketers, we may no longer choose to be passive by-standers — and simply ride it out. Be involved — and stay involved is the best course of action. We are active investors because we all have a stake in growth.
Lest we forget just how successful we can be, investors usually get burned when they pull completely out of the market. So it is with data.
A Listing of U.S. Trade Associations — and there certainly are others:
- American Advertising Federation
- Association of National Advertisers
- Council of Better Business Bureaus
- Data & Marketing Association
- Interactive Advertising Bureau
- Network Advertising Initiative
A Listing of Relevant Self-Regulation Programs for Digital & Data-Driven Advertising:
Disclosure: I have an individual membership with Data & Marketing Association, and a client relationship with Digital Advertising Alliance, which is founded by the six trade associations listed here, with the advice of the Council of Better Business Bureaus.