Marketers get suspicious or get robbed; treat everyone with equal contempt says Ritson

Pippa Chambers
By Pippa Chambers | 30 August 2017
Mark Ritson

TV still ‘spanks’ digital; Facebook and Google have duped us and they’ll start buying TV stations and marketers must ‘hate everyone’ in their quest to become media neutral, says adjunct professor of Melbourne Business School Mark Ritson.

Speaking at the AdNews Media+ Marketing Summit this month, digital media and marketing contrarian Ritson presented the audience with the nine levels of hell that digital is squeezing marketers through.

From poking more holes in programmatic to busting myths on overinflated digital stats and promises, the energetic 45-minute session well and truly had the audience captivated.

While millennials are watching less TV, he said “TV still spanks digital” as that audience are still absorbing more hours of video/content from TV instead of elsewhere.

He predicts that the tech companies will take over the sports and that despite glaring flaws in overblown stats from recent sports games in the US, that were shown via Twitter, marketers believe the hype and go back for more.

“I will tell you what’s going to happen as it’s bloody obvious, Facebook and Google will start buying TV stations and then their integration will be complete,” Ritson said.

“When they have convinced all of you that TV is dead they’ll buy them and run them and the world will be restored and the duopoly completely dominant.”

The programmatic con job

Ritson also delved into the farcical puff that is he feels is 'programmatic advertising'. He used the example of how earlier this year about 400,000 advertisements for JPMorgan Chase were appearing on websites a month. However, in the wake of brand safety concerns the bank’s chief marketing officer Kristin Lemkau decided to pull back on its display ads to about 5,000 websites it had preapproved. The company said it saw little change in the cost of impressions or the visibility of its ads on the internet.

“How is that possible?” Ritson questioned. 

Touching on how P&G recently slashed its digital ad spend by US$140 million over brand safety fears, yet sales continued to rise anyway, Ritson said: “I thought programmatic was meant to be better than that, more accurate and more targeted?”.

At the time, P&G’s chief financial officer Jon Moeller said the brand didn’t need to be spending money that is seen by a bot and not a person and that “clearly” it doesn’t need to be spending money on ads that are placed in inappropriate places – hence the significant reduction in digital spend.

“If programmatic is so good, then how come the Marie Curie cancer care volunteer program is retargeting neo-Nazis? It doesn’t match the massive ‘AI potential’ we keep getting told about. It just looks stupid – looks like it was done with a bingo machine,” Ritson queried.

He said what if programmatic isn’t what it’s cracked up to be and is “just a massive cheap way of getting shit out in a random bingo machine-style way?”.

“No one would check because they don’t really fucking understand it and everyone assumes its great, just like they did with social media. What if it’s mostly a con job?” Ritson said.

Back is the future – the 1990s theory of how to do media

In order to try and step over some of the digital media sink holes, Ritson, who now runs his own Mini MBA course for agencies, major brands and marketers, said the two great ‘how to do media’ theories of integrated marketing and media neutrality should still be – and even more so – in action today.

He said media neutrality means you have to hate everyone.

“My attitude to all channels and all media is fuck them all, they’re trying to rob our money. And you know why? As that’s what a media neutral marketer does,” Ritson said.

“I’m a suspicious mother fucker with all of them as that is the right way to be – respectful, but suspicious.”

Ritson said that’s how marketers are meant to approach it and if they were trained as he was, then that’s what media neutrality means. He did acknowledge it’s hard however to be suspicious when Facebook, Google or one of the TV channels is sitting at the end of the table ‘helping you’ with your spend.

“Treat them all with equal contempt. Respectful but equal contempt," he said.

Ritson said those companies mean to take your shareholders’ money, so you need to “treat them like shit”, suspect them of telling you lies, but give them a chance.

The other concept he endorsed is integrated marketing; the combining of different channels as this provides much better return on investment.

He said while digital is the future of media, brands need to come out of the digital only silo, axe digital from marketing job titles and instead look at all the channels and integrate.

“Integrate like its 1999”, he quipped.

Want more on Ritson?...

Facebook and Google coming for out-of-home, says Mark Ritson

Four ways clients are being gouged by agencies and digital: Mark Ritson

Is Ritson backtracking on his digital loathing?

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