Digital advertising is in a pretzel

Mike Shields wrote an epic piece in Ad Week yesterday about the mess that the digital advertising technology landscape has become. He called it the "Ad Wreck."

I was honored that Mike asked my opinion on the proliferation of technology companies cluttering the ad tech space and got quoted in the article...

“All this investment is predicated toward the lower funnel,” adds Adam Kleinberg, CEO of Traction. “It just feeds into this perception that it’s not for brands. Very few companies are adding value to the space. They are offering just different flavors of very similar solutions. The ‘Lumascape’ has become a meme because it is nonsense.”

If you read my blog, you probably know that I feel the digital ad industry has become way too left-brained. Certainly using data and technology to identify and reach customers more efficiently is important, but data doesn't connect with people on an emotional level. It doesn't persuade them. It doesn't inspire them. And it certainly doesn't get them to buy stuff.

Creative does.

In a discussion about this "ad wreck," my friend Tom Cunniff from Cuniff Consulting in NYC had this to say:

The entire digital infrastructure is designed around generating actions and then optimizing for it. 

 This absolutely *forbids* brand-building creative, which by definition takes time to work. As an analogy, imagine a single man going to a bar in a place where he just moved, seeking "female companionship." 

In traditional advertising, he would try to charm someone into maybe having a drink with him, being interested in what she has to say, making jokes etc. It might take more than one night. Success would be measured by interest generated over time. 

In digital, he would march up to each woman in the bar in turn saying, "Give me sex now and I will buy you a drink." 

After getting slapped in the face 100 times, he would fine-tune his campaign by saying, "Give me sex now and I will buy you a drink AND pretzels."

That is the state of the vast majority of online advertising. Couldn't have said it better myself, Tom.


Adam Kleinberg CEO

Adam is the CEO of Traction, an interactive agency broadly recognized as one of the top small agencies in the US. Kleinberg plays a hands-on role for all agency accounts and keeps his team at the leading edge of emerging digital channels. He is also a regular contributor to Ad Age, Forbes, Mashable, Digiday and iMediaConnection.