P&G’s Brand Officer to Digital Ad Industry: Grow Up

Preach, Mr. Pritchard.

As Chief Brand Officer of the huge multi-national Procter & Gamble brand, Marc. S Pritchard has some serious clout in the industry. And he’s leveraging that clout – publically and in no uncertain terms – at industry events and in major media.

“Mr. Pritchard has taken the stage at several industry events since January to demand more transparency and simplicity from the ad agencies and technology companies in regard to how online ad views are measured, how many people see them and with what kind of content they are appearing,” writes Sapna Maheshwari in The New York Times. “Those Mr. Pritchard has criticized include the web giants Facebook and Google, which brands depend on to reach people online.”

His message is clear: It’s time for the digital ad industry to grow up.

Pritchard cites the “murky, nontransparent and in some cases fraudulent supply chain” as the bottom line problem in the digital ad industry, speaking to a NYT reporter at a recent industry event.

“Ads showing up on objectionable sites, that’s bad. Ads showing up to bots, through searching, that’s bad. Ads that you place that don’t really get measured by a third party that validates what’s right — that’s not so good, either. There’s a number of things in the digital media supply chain — even ads that aren’t viewable or close to viewable,” he notes.

Cleaning up the mess, he says, “will enable us all to … make logical, data-based, reasonable decisions and, most importantly, spend time on what’s really important, which is great creativity to drive growth.”

Pritchard was the butt of a friendly and highly visible jape from Outdoor Advertising Association’s Feel the Real Campaign early this year, following similar comments at an industry event in January.

He’s not alone in airing his frustrations, of course. “So much of it is a con,” said one anonymous programmer in the digital ad industry. This bitter truth is finally becoming apparent enough that the industry is insisting on change. And if they can’t get it from the platforms – who continue to struggle to provide verifiable metrics – they’ll force the issue. Witness the big names pulling away from YouTube after finding their programmatic ad buys were unwittingly supporting hate video.

Pritchard is right – it’s time for digital to grow up, become accountable, and stop relying on its bright, shiny and new reputation. There’s a sea change happening in the ad industry, and it’s about time.