The explosion of content and digital marketing’s inexorable rise have irreversibly transformed the industry, but with it has come a growing crisis of confidence.
This was laid bare on the first day of Advertising Week Europe 2017 as the issue of brand safety loomed high on the agenda. Issues such as brand safety, ad fraud, and false metrics are all making advertisers take pause when it comes to investing ever more into digital.
On the eve of Advertising Week, U.K. retailer Marks & Spencer became the latest big name to pull its spend from YouTube over brand safety fears after its advertising appeared alongside extremist content on the platform.
Google Europe Boss Apologises To Advertisers
The backlash over brand safety on YouTube forced Google EMEA president Matt Brittin to issue a mea culpa on behalf of his company during a session on the first day of Advertising Week.
“I want to start by saying sorry. We apologise,” said Brittin. “When anything like that happens, we don’t want it to happen, you don’t want it to happen, and we take responsibility for it.”
However, Brittin said that when the company had found issues, it had been a matter of “a handful of impressions, and pennies not pounds.” In response, he said the company was now accelerating a review into the issue that he claimed had been “under way for some time.”
During a Q&A at the end of the session, Brittin was asked whether Google would hire anyone to actively seek out illegal or extremist content on the platform. Currently the company only reviews content its community has flagged, rather than proactively seeking it out.
Google’s troubles dominated the conversation despite Unilever CMO Keith Weed sharing a stage with Brittin during the session that was originally billed as “Building Brands In An Attention Economy.”
When questioned on whether Unilever would follow suit and pull advertising from YouTube, Weed said: “We have not been affected here.”
“Do not think for a second we are not having the right sorts of conversations [with Google],” said Weed. “We have not suspended advertising here in the U.K. on YouTube because we are tracking the situation, and I will make whatever decision I want to do as and when.”
Weed argued the challenges facing the industry were not only the responsibility of the platforms, but were also in the hands of the advertiser.
Weed concluded: “From a brand owner or marketer’s perspective, I think we need to smarten up as well.
“I’m every bit for holding Google, or Twitter, or Facebook accountable, but we also need to hold ourselves accountable for using the tools at our disposal.”
Shop Direct Bets Big On Future of Marketing
Dentsu Aegis Network chief executive Nigel Morris echoed the sentiment of Weed and stated the industry needs to “lean into change” during a session with Shop Direct chief executive Alex Baldock on “Digital Economy Marketing.”
“We have these moments where the market stumbles, and it seems everything has gone wrong,” said Morris. “Everyone focuses on short-term impacts and doesn’t understand the long-term implications.”
Shop Direct, which owns the Very and Littlewoods retail brands, is one company that has certainly been leaning into change, and two thirds of its sales are now on mobile, while mobile now accounts for 75% of its digital spend.
Baldock outlined how all the company’s growth is “coming from mobile” and attributed Shop Direct’s success to work with its partners.
“It seems to be open season on Google,” said Baldock. “They are an intensely valuable partner to us, and we fully intend to stay the course with them.”
Mobile is the biggest change in the marketing mix that Baldock has ever seen, but he predicts both chat and Artificial Intelligence could be “comparably as big as mobile.”
Shop Direct has launched a fully automated conversational app called “Very Assistant” and revealed his company was “placing a very big bet on it.”
TV Still Provides Biggest Growth For Just Eat
Just Eat is investing heavily in innovation through initiatives such as delivery to customers using robots and partnerships with Xbox and Alexa, but, despite this, television remains integral to its strategy.
Barnaby Dawe, global CMO at Just Eat, highlighted how a “lot of media has not changed,” by explaining that television drives the food delivery platform’s biggest growth. (See CMO.com’s interview with Just Eat).
“If you stand back and look at any of our markets, you can see the inflection point coming when we invest heavily on TV,” said Dawe.
Nevertheless, due to the levels of investment required for TV advertising, Dawe warned of the dangers of rushing headlong into it.
Dawe revealed he had stopped Just Eat’s Italian operation from advertising on TV because they did not have a clear enough idea of who they were trying to target.
Just Eat “regrouped,” and when the TV ad eventually launched in Italy, it was one of the company’s most successful ever and drove 1 million app downloads.
Pause For Thought
The first day of Advertising Week Europe gave plenty of reasons for advertisers and media platforms to take stock.
The opportunities offered by technology are better than ever, but the bigger picture must not be lost in the rush to be at the cutting edge of innovation.
Weed said this was the “best time to be in advertising” due to the excitement that comes with the unprecedented amount of ways to engage with customers.
However, marketers will have to work harder than ever to ensure they maintain brand safety and stay true to their marketing objectives.