Digital advertising needs to sniff its own stench, instead of everybody’s digital butts.
A sample of that stench is wafting through the interwebs from the Partnership for Responsible Addressable Media, an ad industry bullphemism for yet another way to excuse the urge to keep tracking people against their wishes (and simple good manners) all over the digital world.
This new thing is a granfalloon conjured by the Association of National Advertisers (aka the ANA) and announced today in the faux-news style of the press release (which it no doubt also is) at the first link above. It begins,
AD INDUSTRY LAUNCHES “PARTNERSHIP FOR RESPONSIBLE ADDRESSABLE MEDIA” TO ENSURE FUTURE OF DIGITAL MEDIA FOR BUSINESSES & CONSUMERS
Governing Group of Industry Leaders Includes 4A’s, ANA, IAB, IAB Tech Lab, NAI, WFA, P&G, Unilever, Ford, GM, IBM, NBCUniversal, IPG, Publicis, Adobe, LiveRamp, MediaMath, The Trade Desk
NEW YORK (August 4, 2020) — Leading trade associations and companies representing every sector of the global advertising industry today joined together to launch the Partnership for Responsible Addressable Media, an initiative to advance and protect critical functionalities like customization and analytics for digital media and advertising, while safeguarding privacy and improving the consumer experience. The governing group of the Partnership will include the most influential organizations in advertising.
I learned about this from @WendyDavis, who wrote this piece in MediaPost. NiemanLab summarizes what she reports with a tweet that reads, “A new ad-industry group will lobby Google and Apple to let them track users just a wee bit more, please and thank you.”
The group will soon reach out to browser developers and platforms, in hopes of convincing them to rethink recent decisions that will limit tracking, according to Venable attorney Stu Ingis, who will head the legal and policy working group.
“These companies are taking huge positions that impact the entire economy — the entire media ecosystem — with no real input from the media ecosystem,” Ingis says.
As if the “entire media ecosystem” doesn’t contain the billions of humans being tracked.
Well, here’s a fact: ad blocking, which was already the biggest boycott in world history five years ago, didn’t happen in a vacuum. Even though ad blockers had been available since 2004, use of them didn’t hockey-stick until 2012-13, exactly when adtech and its dependents in publishing gave the middle finger to Do Not Track, which was nothing more than a polite request, expressed by a browser, for some damn privacy while we go about our lives online. See this in Harvard Business Review:
Here’s another fact: the browser makers actually care about their users, some of whom are paying customers (for example with Apple and Microsoft). They know what we want and need, and are giving it to us. Demand and supply at work.
The GDPR and the CCPA also didn’t happen in a vacuum. Both laws were made to protect citizens from exactly what adtech (tracking based advertising) does. And, naturally, the ad biz has been working mightily to obey the letter of those laws while violating their spirit. Why else would we be urged by cookie notices everywhere to “accept” exactly what we’ve made very clear that we don’t want?
So here are some helpful questions from the world’s billions to the brands now paying to have us followed like marked animals:
Have you noticed that not a single brand known to the world has been created by tracking people and aiming ads at them—even after spending a $trillion or two on doing that?
Have you noticed that tracking people and directing personalized messages at them—through “addressable media”—is in fact direct marketing, which we used to call junk mail?
Didn’t think so.
Time to get the clues, ad biz. Brands too.
Start with The Cluetrain Manifesto, which says, if you only have time for one clue this year, this is the one to get…
we are not seats or eyeballs or end users or consumers.
we are human beings — and our reach exceeds your grasp.
deal with it.
That year was 1999.
If advertising and marketing had bothered to listen back then, they might not be dealing today with the GDPR, the CCPA, and the earned dislike of billions.
Next, please learn (or re-learn) the difference between real advertising and the junk message business. Find that lesson in Separating Advertising’s Wheat and Chaff. An excerpt:
See, adtech did not spring from the loins of Madison Avenue. Instead its direct ancestor is what’s called direct response marketing. Before that, it was called direct mail, or junk mail. In metrics, methods and manners, it is little different from its closest relative, spam.
Direct response marketing has always wanted to get personal, has always been data-driven, has never attracted the creative talent for which Madison Avenue has been rightly famous. Look up best ads of all time and you’ll find nothing but wheat. No direct response or adtech postings, mailings or ad placements on phones or websites.
Yes, brand advertising has always been data-driven too, but the data that mattered was how many people were exposed to an ad, not how many clicked on one — or whether you, personally, did anything.
And yes, a lot of brand advertising is annoying. But at least we know it pays for the TV programs we watch and the publications we read. Wheat-producing advertisers are called “sponsors” for a reason.
So how did direct response marketing get to be called advertising ? By looking the same. Online it’s hard to tell the difference between a wheat ad and a chaff one.
Remember the movie “Invasion of the Body Snatchers?” (Or the remake by the same name?) Same thing here. Madison Avenue fell asleep, direct response marketing ate its brain, and it woke up as an alien replica of itself.
That’s what had happened to the ANA in 2018, when it acquired what had been the Direct Marketing Association (aka DMA) and which by then called itself the Data & Marketing Association.
The Partnership for Responsible Addressable Media speaks in the voice of advertising’s alien replica. It does not “safeguard essential values in advertising as a positive economic force.” Instead it wants to keep using “addressable” advertising as the primary instrument of surveillance capitalism.
Maybe it’s too late to save advertising from its alien self. But perhaps not, if what’s left of advertising’s soul takes the writings of Bob Hoffman (@AdContrarian) to heart. That’s the only way I know for advertising to clean up its act.