The digital dilemma.

The trend towards more and more advertising spend going to digital and mobile media continues apace. There are however increasingly siren calls to tread cautiously and, without wishing to be Canute the Luddite, I feel they should be heeded.

There is a perception that digital is the most targetable and most measurable medium, but while digital does generate a mass of data not available from analogue media the veracity and value of the data and its interpretation is very much in question. Facebook video advertising metrics for example have been shown, by their own admission, to have been overstated by a factor of up to 80% over the last two years.

A recent Mediatel Connected Screens Survey indicates that 40% of laptops/PCs have installed ad blockers. While this is not as prevalent on mobiles there is a widespread feeling that while advertising insists on blocking content (with overly intrusive formats) then users will block advertising.

The holy grail of precisely targeted messages to sharply defined audiences is often more an aspiration than a truly deliverable entity. Proctor & Gamble have publicly declared that they have abandoned targeting on Facebook as there were no demonstrable benefits to justify the additional cost of the targeting. Broader ad targeting at a lower cost-per-thousand proved as efficient against sub-target groups and this could well be a valuable indicator for all but the most niche of brands.

A fog of confusion surrounds Programmatic advertising, how it operates, who takes what share of revenues and whether much described as ‘prog’ is simply automated trading. Roy Jeans, Chairman of Communication Partners UK, and one of the media industries leading negotiating lights over the least 25 years, has even suggested that Programmatic is the 21st Century equivalent of the ill-fated derivatives markets (that contributed so much to the great crash of 2008), and is prone to the same sort of risks since the process is willfully opaque and consequently poorly understood.

While we should always be careful to define a prime target audience as a starting point for media planning it must always be borne in mind that for the vast majority of products these will not be the only consumers of the product. Media such as outdoor and broadcast TV that offer a wide audience, comprising the key targets and many other potential customers and influencers, have a value beyond the bald numbers generated by many digital ROI calculations.

John Charman is Media Director at The Point, and always keen to talk media and media effectiveness. You can get in touch with John via email –