Is Ritson backtracking on his digital loathing?

Pippa Chambers
By Pippa Chambers | 11 August 2017
Mark Ritson at AdNews Media & Marketing Summit

Not all digital media is futile and there are actually some redeeming qualities in the almighty duopoly that is Facebook and Google, says digital media and marketing contrarian Mark Ritson.

Known for his sharp tongue and candid views on digital media spend wastage, it’s fair to say the British, but Tasmanian-based adjunct professor of Melbourne Business School, has got quite a digital-bashing rep.

However, speaking at the AdNews Media+ Marketing Summit last week, it turns out he does actually have some nice things to say about the duo that so frequently rub him up the wrong way.

When addressing a crowd of media and marketing execs to outline the nine levels of hell that digital is taking marketers through, Ritson wanted to get in a few caveats before the next fiery 45 minutes.

“Google is not Satan. It’s a fine company staffed by very nice people, many of them are my ex-MBA students so I am not trying to infer that Google are satanic in any way, shape or form,” he began.

“Similarly, Facebook is not the devil. They are a fine organisation that has done a splendid job promoting their advertising wares and they deserve tremendous credit.”

Ritson followed up clarifying “digital media is not a stupid investment” and that most of the clients he works with invest a significant proportion of their budgets into digital media which makes complete sense as “it’s a fabulous tactical opportunity”.

Softly softly

However, the praise soon began to wilt as he maneuvered onto the digital duopoly and how it is a huge issue for Australia and everywhere else.

“We are walking into a storm which most people are completely ignorant of,” Ritson explained.

“Depending on who you believe, between 85c and 90c in every $1 of new incremental digital marketing money goes to just two companies. It’s a duopoly and to further prove that, give me an example of where Facebook and Google have had a go at each other - they haven’t. Why? Because it’s a duopoly and they will dominate the world like nothing you’ve ever seen before.”

While clearly not against all digital media spend, which many have pegged him as being, Ritson’s issues lie with digital media’s success being overstated by those that use it. 

“I think they are madly in love with it and I think they suffer from mania as a result – in terms of its performance and the way they perceive it,” he said.

He adds that digital is also overrated by the client and while it deserves “a big place in most media spends”, the place is often too big and it’s seen in the wrong way.

“I believe there are massive problems, as there are with any form of marketing or media, but there are particularly ones with digital given it’s grown so fast and has got so dominant so quickly,” he said.

“I actually think there are nine problems.”

Keep an eye on AdNews for more from Ritson’s session at AdNews Media+ Marketing Summit.

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