"Display advertising never worked like we pretended,"
Forrester's report says. "CMOs know this already, but nobody wants
to talk about it." Forrester cites the familiar problems of
poor-quality ad placements, barely existent clickthrough rates,
non-viewable impressions and rising ad blocking.
The biggest spenders, such as Procter & Gamble Co., feel those issues
most, said James McQuivey, lead analyst on the report, so it's no
wonder they're taking the lead in pushing back.
McQuivey likens P&G Chief Brand Officer Marc Pritchard's
calls this year for increased transparency and accountability to
"pulling on a thread" at a time when the fabric of the digital ad
economy is prone to fraying.
"Calling them out is step one," McQuivey said. "Pulling dollars
away follows thereafter."
P&G's projection last week that it will cut ad spending by
$2 billion over five years, including $1 billion in media at least
partly through a streamlined digital supply chain, is a clear move
in that direction. So is its threat to stop spending by year end on
digital properties that don't have audience verification from third
parties accredited by the Media Rating Council.
But in an interview, McQuivey said advertisers, rather than
simply trying to reform digital advertising, should and will
re-invest some of that money in emerging alternatives. He doesn't
mean the TV upfront, though Forrester cites projections of a
healthy 4.5% bump this year by Media Dynamics. Instead, he's
talking "persistent personal assistants."
Consumers already are gravitating toward "options for getting
what they want without interruptions," McQuivey said, pointing to
the likes of Apple's Siri, Amazon Echo, Google Home, Google Assistant and
Facebook Messenger or WhatsApp chatbots .
"Interruption only works if consumers spend time doing
interruptible things on interruption-friendly devices," according
to the report. "Once they can get what they want without leaving
themselves open to interruptions – whether through voice
interfaces or AI-driven background services – they will feel
even more hostile to ad interruptions than they claim to be
The same big digital players may well dominate personal
assistants as dominate digital advertising, he said. And consumers
will have a limited number of commercial relationships they can
handle. So most brands will still need to work through hubs
developed by others.
But that doesn't mean everyone will have the exact same
relationships or brands can't develop their own, McQuivey said. He
cited Under Armour's investment in MyFitnessPal, MapMyRun and
MapMyRide. A brand such as P&G's Tide could answer consumer
laundry questions directly either through its own properties,
something developed with one of the major digital players, or
programs through appliance manufacturers like Whirlpool.
"Consumers are ready for deeper relationships with the companies
that matter to them," McQuivey said. "There are clear steps to take
today, including embedding personality in your brand's current
All this doesn't mean advertisers are "going to turn away
totally" from digital advertising, McQuivey said. But they could
see a pause that refreshes strategy – or depresses spending
growth long term.