The recent Google boycott has made international news and set off an avalanche of activity. Over 250 companies have joined the cause related to concerns around Google’s inability to prevent ads from being served next to questionable content on YouTube and throughout their ad network.
Google just celebrated their 11th year as a publicly traded company and, in that time, advertising revenue growth has ballooned from $6.1 Billion in 2005 to $79.38 Billion in 2016. Until this boycott, advertisers have been mesmerized by Google’s scale and ubiquitous brand. Google -- and the media agencies that sell and promote Google’s media services -- have sold Google’s paid search and display products on scale-driven KPIs such as low cost per click (CPC), low cost per thousand (CPM) and the need for high impression share.
While Google offers tremendous scale, some advertisers are recognizing the tradeoffs between quality and quantity in digital media. Advertising are questioning the effectiveness of a “scale” model and the KPIs that fail to reflect the clients outcomes (e.g. what truly does a CPC or CPM measure in a digital ecosystem where audience quality is not equal).
Accroding to eMarketer, OEMs and dealerships spent $4 billion on Google and Paid search marketing in 2016. Yet few US Automotive advertisers have analyzed this spend to determine if the spend helped attain their goals: from market share and rate growth to turn and reduced SG&A expenses… How could so much money be spent in the US auto industry without basic oversight of such considerable investment?
Marc Pritchard, Proctor & Gamble’s Chief Brand Officer, issued a Clarion Call during his IAB presentation in January 2017 to the entire digital ecosystem. During his presentation, Pritchard commented on the lack of digital accountability, “We are wasting too much time and money on a media supply chain with poor standards adoption, too many players grading their own homework…and too many holes to allow criminals to rip us off."
While Mr. Pritchard didn’t name any agency, media company or call out Google directly; however, in less than 8 weeks after Mr. Pritchard’s presentation, over 250 leading companies began “voting with their dollars” and started boycotting Google boycott based on the same lack of standards and lack of accountability that Mr. Pritchard addressed at the IAB conference.
Brand quality and brand standards need to be central to advertising moving forward. As Mr. Pritchard stated, Digital media cannot have a “hall pass” on quality standards. Since the dawn of advertising, companies selling goods or services have aspired to build their brands by associating their products with high quality, strong brands and marketplaces. While there will always be a place for scale plays and the potential lower quality and cheaper rates that scale plays provide, advertisers needs to assess the quality of their audience not in terms of cheap CPCs and CPMs, but in terms of outcomes, quality and potential risks (in either advertising or not advertising).
Over the past 11 years there has been an unnatural disconnect between large scale plays like Google (and increasingly Facebook) based on their internal metrics that emphasize efficiency and scale vs. true advertiser outcomes and quality. Over 250 companies have connected this formula and have begun assessing how negative brand associations affect their audience- even at cheap CPC or CPMs. This recent realization could prove costly to Google- with Fortune estimating that the Google boycott could cost Google $750M. The advertisers boycotting Google have made it clear: the price of quality is high and the cost to fail to deliver quality can be even higher…