Nicklin & Huntington address the "targeting fallacy" at ISBA's conference

Long-term brand health, over-targeting and being stuck in a direct-response mindset were on the agenda as the Guardian's Hamish Nicklin and Saatchi & Saatchi's Richard Huntington joined Google's Ronan Harris on stage.

"We've forgotten the value of context in media", Huntington told delegates at Wednesday morning's event. "We believe that quality of media is simply the quality of the pipe, and whether it accurately reaches someone we've predicted might be interested in us, rather than the whole context around the message and the brand."

Instead, when it comes to digital advertising, "the only thing that really seems to matter is how cheaply you can get your message in front of an audience", said Nicklin, using a brilliant example to illustrate his point: "If we apply that principle of low-cost advertising to branding in the real world, what you might get is, say, Rolex wanting to target 'City boys',  putting an ad in a urinal in a boozer in the City, because you're targeting that individual in a very very cheap way... Rolex would never be happy with that, but that's what happens every single day on the internet."

With Huntington referring to the prioritisation of reaching those "who are ready, willing and able to purchase your product" over all other factors as a "targeting fallacy", Nicklin added that over-targeting and the decline in media spend “wastage” is having a detrimental impact on long-term brand health - giving the example of a 10 year old seeing a BMW on TV, leading to a purchase 20 years later. 

On The Times' recent revelations about digital ad placements, the Guardian's CRO commented: "The more we see headlines such as 'brands funding terror', the more we will be regulated by the government... so let's get tougher and do more, much more quickly." He added that while he believes programmatic definitely has a future, "we need to change how we use the tech" and clients should demand signals for quality and context are built in.

Google's UK MD Ronan Harris said that the company, whose video site YouTube was implicated in The Times' investigation, is "actively and quickly pushing for very high standards across the board", adding that "it's not in our interests to have anything that gets through the system that give people – either a consumer or a brand – a bad experience".

Sharing a stage with Harris, Nicklin used the example of a recent ad featuring Deborah Meaden with a black eye as an example of how easy it is to "game the system". After a week of exploration, Nicklin discovered that the ad, which linked through to a website selling sex toys and porn, had appeared on the Guardian's site via Google Adwords – a platform which he said meant "just about anyone that wants to can put an ad out", before altering the code so that it passes through most systems. "Therefore there is a massive responsibility not just on Google, but on all adtech companies to help fix this", he explained.

Sources: Campaign and Mediatel

by Jessie Sampson 09/03/17

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