Are the wheels falling off the shiny new digital ad toy?

Comment from Peter Saxon

When Mark Ritson, Adjunct Professor at Melbourne Business School, gave his stirring presentation at last year’s CRA conference he went as far as to call some of the methods by which digital advertising is measured, “bullshit.”

With tongue loosely planted in cheek he said,”What you’ve got wrong [in radio] is that you measure audiences properly.”

Ritson showed figures for social media engagement from Australia’s biggest brands; and pointed out that the numbers were tiny. “Minibus-sized audiences”, he called them, adding that “in many cases, these brands have more people in their social media teams than are responding to their tweets”.

See Mark Ritson’s full CRA Conference presentation here.

Of course, Ritson’s message and sparkling delivery was ecstatically received by the largely pro-radio audience. Nonetheless, those representing ad buying groups had their doubts. Even a significant minority of radio delegates we spoke to were concerned that some of Ritson’s conclusions, if not the data on which they were based, were a little over-cooked. Perhaps even a tad misleading and, therefore, could not be reliably presented to advertising buyers.

Last week, vindication, if it were needed, came via a fiery speech by Procter & Gamble chief brand officer Marc Pritchard (left). Speaking at the annual Internet Advertising Bureau’s leadership forum in Florida, he vented on Google and Facebook’s ‘walled gardens’ and demanded transparency from the digital supply chain, heralding a new era in digital advertising. Watch Pritchard’s speech here.

Ritson followed up with his own piece in Marketing Week where he got stuck into what he called “the increasingly dodgy world of programmatic, and specifically the long list of ad tech vendors who each “punch their ticket” and take a significant slice of the client’s media investment long before it ever reaches a publisher or platform.”

He quoted Pritchard saying, “We serve ads to consumers through a non-transparent media supply chain with spotty compliance to common standards, unreliable measurement, hidden rebates and new inventions like bot and methbot fraud.”

The warning signs have been there for some time. Back in October 2015 radioinfo spoke to Andrew Reid, then Head of Digital, Data and Investment at Amplifi which is part of the Dentsu Aegis Network. 

Reid (left) told us then, “The big issue right now is that there’s a lot of wastage in digital. We know ads are being served but we’re not sure people are seeing them. Up to half of that is unseen because it’s under a page or behind a browser, you could have multiple screens opening up. In Pandora or Spotify’s case you might have a visual coming up on your screen and you don’t view it. Just because I know more about the audience doesn’t mean that I’m connecting with that audience.”

By March last year, in Ad News, online travel giant Expedia flagged its reluctance to invest further in programmatic due to what it called, “the current inefficiencies in the marketplace.”

Now with heavyweight media spender Proctor and Gamble exposing the myth of “fully accountable” digital media, radio’s tried and tested survey methods look much more reliable.

 Peter Saxon


Get a €200 discount for RadioDays Europe

Hurry… Must be booked by February 10.

Thinking of going to RadioDays Europe next month in Amsterdam?

You can save 200 Euros off the ticket price by booking with radioinfo’s special discount code.

radioinfo is once again partnering with what has become the biggest European radio event.

If you can’t get there, we will cover the three day radio fest for you, but if you are going and haven’t booked yet, take advantage of our discount.


Email us for the code, no strings attached, no limits, you won’t go onto a mailing list… just ask us for the code by emailing [email protected].

Participants must register on the RDE website ( using the partner organisation discount code.  Payment is made by credit card online.

Radiodays Europe is being held from 19-21 March at RAI Convention Centre in Amsterdam.

See some of our coverage of last year’s event here.


Tags: | | |