Digital marketing is finished. It is all corrupt, everyone is blocking ads, media platforms are ripping off
advertisers by gaming viewability standards, measuring ROI is impossible, creativity is dead and creative format standardisation is a pipe dream, targeting is redundant and retargeting is evil, response rates are poor and declining, news is fake, other content is landfill, ad tech is a treacherous landscape riddled with arbitrage, brand safety is impossible to control…
If you have been reading coverage of digital marketing in the press over the past year, these are the key takeaways and they are all negative.
We delivered 700 million visits to our clients’ websites or apps, generating more than 25 million unique sales
But while coverage of these issues is critical and deserving of awareness, discussion and resolution, it is not actually a fair or balanced reflection of what is happening in the industry. Not by a long way. In fact, it ignores approximately half of the digital marketing industry.
The half I am referring to is the half of the industry engaged in performance marketing. Fifty per cent of digital spend is categorised as "performance" marketing.
Performance marketing is, by definition, concerned with driving business results. It is a part of the industry entirely focused on harnessing digital channels, behaviours, signals, data, technology, creative and content for the express purpose of driving business outcomes.
The business outcomes are defined by the advertiser but generally include a combination of sales, revenue, profit, margin and value.
The outcomes are measurable, audited results that are tracked and optimised by third-party platforms and translate to direct attributable revenue on the client side.
There is no debate (attribution notwithstanding) as to the efficacy of performance marketing. If John Wanamaker were alive today, he might just have his answer as to which half of the budget was delivering results.
We don’t often publish performance numbers but, in the interests of transparency and to substantiate the above, I would like to share our headline performance data from last year.
In 2016, iProspect UK tracked and optimised more than 100 billion digital data signals. We delivered 700 million visits to our clients’ websites or apps, generating more than 25 million unique sales. The total value of sales generated into the UK economy from our work was more than £1bn. Our 700 performance marketing specialists find that pretty motivating, inspiring and positive.
Delivering these results requires deep specialism, focus and integration across a complex variety of disciplines including paid search, SEO, affiliates, analytics, conversion rate optimisation, social display and machine learning, to name a few.
It requires thousands of optimisation decisions to be taken each day either by people or by machines. It requires investment in customised technology solutions for clients and continuous innovation to stay abreast of product developments.
Delivering these results also requires a diverse range of talent from the fields of science, technology, engineering and mathematics.
The incoming talent of today have options to go into numerous fields as their skills are transferable across an increasing number of industries in the growing digital economy.
If we are to continue to attract this talent, we must ensure we balance coverage of the industry’s challenges with appropriate coverage of all the good, results-driven, innovative work that is also being delivered – day in, day out.
We should beware of talking ourselves into a self-perpetuating spiral of negativity and becoming part of the problem, not the solution.
Stefan Bardega is the UK and Ireland chief executive of iProspect