“Hey Marc, This ad is real.”

He’s the Chief Brand Officer at the world’s biggest advertiser, and he is urging the ad industry to clean up its digital act.

Proctor & Gamble’s Marc Pritchard presented the company’s get-tough plan to his fellow execs at the recent IAB’s annual leadership meeting in Florida.

“The days of giving digital a pass are over,” he said. “It’s time for the industry to grow up. It’s time for action.”

That work includes industry-standard viewability metrics, fraud protection, third-party verification plus enforcement to stem the bleeding from digital’s dysfunction. It’s about time, and it’s good to see the industry stepping up to the plate to tackle this issue.

What’s even better is the hilarious but spot-on response by Outdoor Advertising Association’s Feel the Real Campaign.

In response to Pritchard’s speech, “the Outdoor Advertising Association of America has put up six billboards near P&G headquarters in Cincinnati shouting out: ‘Hey Marc, This ad is real,’” writes Jack Neff in Ad Age.

“The idea isn’t entirely about poking fun at viewership problems of digital media,” Neff continues. “It’s also meant to portray out-of-home as ‘a perfect complement to the digital space, because it’s out there in the real world and can help guide you to some of that digital content,’ [OOAA’s] Mr. Freitas said.”

The point was well taken.

“We agree. The ad is real,” said P&G spokesperson Tressie Rose.

Advertisers have grown increasingly skeptical of the veracity of their digital investments, and rightly so.  The digital ad unicorn has been exposed for what it is, at the same time that ad blocking is reaching new heights.

Our trusted friend Samir “Mr. Magazine” Husni took a long hard look at what he calls the “pot of gold” mentality of digital advertisers and found some “factual facts” that might shed some real light on the “alternate facts” surrounding digital ads.

  • The real winners, according to Husni, are clearly Facebook and Google. “The average US online ad growth in the first half of 2016 was +19% from which Facebook saw a +68% growth, Google +23% growth and everyone else -2% decline,” he notes, citing IAB sources.
  • “Online advertising spending growth has dropped almost in half from a 26.2% in 2015 to 13.3% in 2016,” he continues.
  • On its best day, digital advertising is “dauntingly massive, complex and obscure,” he notes. Not to mention expensive and rife with fraud.

Perhaps the industry is taking action and regaining control. Maybe all it takes is a big old billboard staring us in the face to make us realize what’s real.