Advertising’s Moral Struggle: Is Online Reach Worth the Hurt? – The New York Times

My Thoughts: In this recent article from The New York Times the moral struggle of advertising on “fake news” sites is discussed, and there are some good questions asked.

Decisions on where you advertise are always a complicated subject when it comes to marketing. Brands don’t usually want to be associated with false or inflammatory content (unless it’s clear parody, like The Onion) but they’re also always looking for cheap yet effective ways to get in front of customers.

With the way online programmatic advertising is set up, most marketers aren’t directly choosing where their ads are showing up anymore, but instead that’s done mostly at an algorithmic level. Of course in order to get into the advertising platform as a “publisher” in the first place you have to usually be “approved” by the ad networks, so in my opinion the responsibility should really be on the ad networks themselves who are selling the inventory rather than the advertisers.

In my time at Musicnotes I ran into similar issues with “illegal” web sites. All-too-often we would find our ads displaying on sites with unlicensed content – which was against our internal policies. While we turned off any ads we saw on these sites, the way the networks were set up made it nearly impossible to know where our ads would show up until they did so.

Besides this policing of ads though, there was the whole other larger question of if we should be advertising there or not. While we made the moral decision to not support such sites by sending ad revenue their way, we did have to deal with the fact that our competitors did not follow the same “moral rules” as we did – which put us at a competitive disadvantage in the market.

So as I see it, the advertising on “fake news” sites is just another extension of an already long-standing issue: as programmatic advertising and ad networks continue to take more ad share, how do we police where ads show up? Does the responsibility lie with the ad networks or the advertisers themselves?

Should we even be self-policing this? Do we have a moral obligation as marketers to make decisions as to what is “right or wrong” to advertise on? Or should ad dollars just go after the eyeballs?


Data and automation allow companies to connect with people anywhere on the internet, but that advertising also bankrolls sites toxic to society.

Source: Advertising’s Moral Struggle: Is Online Reach Worth the Hurt? – The New York Times

Coke CMO Defends TV as Cola Giant Rethinks Digital Approach | CMO Strategy – AdAge

My thoughts: It’s interesting to see someone as big as Coca Cola defending television as a stronger platform than digital – but it can also make a lot of sense if you think about it. We’ve been hearing a lot lately about how video is the future for digital … but video is exactly what TV has been all along. Getting your visual story out there in front of people is what TV is best at – and since Coke is such a broad audience brand, it’s not like they need to do microtargeting.

Maybe TV will see a resurgence in value as marketers learn to start using it as a brand storytelling medium again rather than just a place to shove an ad in the consumers’ face. Might it not be that the message and approach in advertising is more important than the medium?

Coca-Cola Co. global Chief Marketing Officer Marcos de Quinto on Friday defended TV advertising as providing the best bang for the buck while questioning the beverage giant’s past digital spending practices.

Source: Coke CMO Defends TV as Cola Giant Rethinks Digital Approach | CMO Strategy – AdAge

This Vodka Used Facebook Live to Wish Happy Holidays to Every Single Icelander by Name | Adweek

My thoughts: First off, this is some pretty crazy personalization. Also, I find it fascinating that Iceland has a “name approval process.” Apparently anyone native-born in Iceland must have a name that conforms to the country’s language and culture? Crazy.

Talk about ambition: Reyka Vodka has decided to use Facebook Live to wish every single resident of Iceland Gleðilega hátíð, or “Happy holidays.”  Iceland isn’t a big country, but it does count over 320,000 residents—making this quite a job for Frikki, the man who’s been appointed to do it.

Source: This Vodka Used Facebook Live to Wish Happy Holidays to Every Single Icelander by Name | Adweek

Kellogg's Advertising Pulled from Breitbart

Kellogg’s Advertising Pulled from Breitbart. Smart Move?

News just came out today that Kellogg’s Advertising firms are pulling all of its advertising from the site

The site has recently come under stronger fire from groups condemning it as sexist, racist and promoting hate-speech. A big push for this has been on social media, particularly on Twitter and Facebook.

The reasoning for Kellogg’s decision to pull their advertising is that Breitbart’s recent articles and rhetoric “aren’t aligned with our values as a company,”

(And for the record, I’m staying out of the debate about Breitbart’s content, I’m questioning the brand move from advertising and PR perspective)

But with a country as divided as it is right now, is this a smart move? After all, Donald Trump’s top aide and future White House Adviser, Steve Bannon, used to actually run the site.

Is this decision to pull their online advertising from it likely to get it caught into a new firestorm with people who are regular readers of the site, or Donald Trump supporters? Or do you think it was a decision mostly to just get out of the crosshairs of any kind of public backlash?

My last question – the one I’m really pondering, is this: If journalism (let’s just call Bretibart journalism, for the sake of this argument) is reliant on advertising to survive, and groups can rise up online against speech or reporting they don’t like, are we risking a censored journalistic environment?

As much as there are plenty of things out there that are reported on and opinions I don’t agree with, I fear that we risk setting a precedent where we stamp out speech we don’t like by threatening boycotts of the companies who are just trying to get in front of potential customer eyeballs.

So what do you think of Kellogg’s advertising pull from Breitbart? Leave your thoughts below.

It’s Okay If Your Click Doesn’t Convert

Your ad is set. It’s super cool. Engagement is off the charts. People are clicking like their lives depend on it. But people aren’t buying.

Nightmare? Far from it.

A lot of the time when I’m working with people on their marketing campaigns they are looking for immediate action – which in most cases means getting people who click the ad to make a purchase (conversion rate). They do all the work to get the ads out there or the third-party relationships in place to drive traffic, and people are engaging. They’re clicking through. But according to analytics, no one is buying after they click.
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Snapchat’s Biggest Risk Is Ingrained in Its DNA

Earlier today I was talking to a colleague about valuations (and overvaluations) of a lot of tech companies, and in particular how the “get users at any cost” model appears to finally be showing some cracks (which make sense, since the whole concept of monetization has never been realized by most of them). Naturally, discussion veered to some of the hotter platforms out there now, including Snapchat.

I’ve been using Snapchat myself for a month or two now, after seeing my wife become addicted to it a few months earlier and finally giving in to see what all the fuss is about. My colleague has used it in passing, but it hasn’t caught on for him. Given that we’re not the demographic who’s using Snapchat the most, we turned our discussion away from “why is this popular?” to the more pressing question: “why is this worth so much, and how do they ever plan to make this profitable?”

Of course, Snapchat has been rolling out quite a few features lately that can bring in money – the most promising of which I think is their sponsored filters/effects. So they’ve got their eye on profitability, or at least some sort of revenue stream – and they’re doing it in ways that actually make sense as part of the platform rather than just sticking ads into people’s streams – but this brought up a much more important question. Is the lack of advertising and the lower usage of Snapchat by the “older” demographics part of the reason for its popularity? Is Snapchat so popular with the younger demographic due in part to the fact that they feel its a kind of club of their own?

If that’s the case, it’s entirely possible that as advertising and monetization move in, and as Snapchat becomes used by all the “grown ups” out there, the current large userbase might bail. It’s also possible that they will stick with the platform due to the inertia they’ve made in it, much like how Facebook users have stuck with Facebook as they’ve gotten older. In other words, Snapchat may not always be popular with the “younger” demo, but instead that younger demo may become accustomed to having Snapchat as part of their lives and its usage demographics will shift as the users shift. Same user group, different demographics over time.

The problem with this though is that Snapchat has a very serious risk that is built directly into the DNA of the product. By its very nature of “auto-deleting” posts after view, or even only having rolling windows of 24 hours for stories, Snapchat’s value only lies in the current space in time in which it exists. Over the course of a year, someone may engage with the platform thousands of times, but none of that has any historical record or value. Basically because you can’t go back and see what you did six months ago, your investment into Snapchat holds no value to you.

This is where platforms like Facebook have built up such resilience to customers simply abandoning the platform. With Facebook you have a historical record, like a virtual scrapbook, that you can go back in time and view. Throughout the time you’ve spent interacting and sharing you’ve built up a history that includes major amounts of data and information, all of which you would in essence “give up” if you were to abandon Facebook. Instagram is similar with its photo timelines, and Twitter with your tweet history. Snapchat has nothing of the sort. Yes you might build up a bunch of connections, but those are easily transported to a new service.

A good comparison from an e-commerce / tech perspective would be to think of switching analytics providers. If you’ve spent the last 10 years gathering your data into Adobe/SiteCatalyst, you have a lot of information (a vested interest) in the platform. Even if Google Analytics is better and cheaper, the cost of switching is huge because you lose all the information you have stored there (ignoring data exports, of course). The point is, all that data and historical interaction is of great value. An analytics platform that only told you what happened in the last 24 hours would be susceptible to major churn when something else hot comes along – and Snapchat is in the same boat here.

I don’t think Snapchat is anywhere near the end of its days – in fact I think it still has a lot of room for growth. But there’s a big risk built in to the way they work that makes them much more at risk than any other major platform in memory in that they have really no investments from their users that can be leveraged for continued brand loyalty.

The good thing is that with this risk, they will be required to continually innovate to keep users engaged. But once the new hotness comes into town, the exodus could be like nothing we’ve seen before (even counting the death of MySpace).