Is digital advertising dead? Yes. (Quotes from around the web.)

Reading time: 3 minutes

Hi. It’s Wil.

I write about the intersection of communications and technology, especially for those looking to build new ways to communicate with their B2B clients. Thanks for being here.

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Tonight, I’m trying something different.

At the end of each article, I normally post a handful of links that helped me think and write about the article’s topic.

I’m assuming those links are references more for me than for you, dear reader.

What if I intertwined pieces from those reference links into the actual story?

Here goes something

First, a quick note

I’m not a big paid social media person. In fact, social media as we know it today bugs me.

That’s my bias. Right up front.

Think that’s strange coming from someone like me?

The challenge is: I like to know and validate how things work.

I can’t do that with paid ads on social media.

(I’m not sure I can do that with any programmatic digital advertising. One, um, cookie at a time though.)

Take this crazy stat:

70% of programmatic ads don’t reach the consumer. That’s $140 billion wasted!


How did we get here?

(Over decades …)

Advertising came to be such a large part of online business models because of early assumptions that content should be free, that people won’t pay for content, and that it would be too hard to accept payments anyhow. We’ve long since learned that all three of these are false.

(Then a very short time ago …)

(Like, last week.)

Now that Facebook and other apps must explicitly ask people for permission to track their behavior, many users have opted out. That means less user data for Facebook, which makes targeting ads – one of the company’s main ways of making money – more difficult.

Yeah, but these are just apps.

You don’t really mean digital advertising is dead?

(Based on it’s foundation, at the very least, it’s dying…)

The backlash against the use of data in advertising is somewhat curious since there are seemingly far more worrying data trends, particularly how governments are using data sets, but likely ties back to the chaotic, complicated way digital advertising works in the hopes of getting the right ad in front of the right person.


So, do I just tell my boss we’ve been spending buckets of money on digital advertising and we need to stop, today?

(I feel your pain! As a B2B marketer, start slowing your digital advertising spend via social media platforms. Maybe move some of that budget to Google, for the short term.)

Google’s access to first-party data means its ability to track and target ads was relatively unaffected, making its platforms especially attractive to marketers who were left scrambling after iOS 14.5.

Ok, I can do that.


Then what?

(Two things. First, make it easy for your clients or prospects to get what they want…)

Remember: users do not care about your architecture. They care about your value proposition. Every ounce of friction from an architecture choice that shows up in UX, or limits scale, or increases cost, or slows down velocity, will eventually be a disadvantage.


I can do that.

Then what?

(Second… Think outside of the box…)

Every SaaS company should have a media arm with a newsletter that gives industry news. Just acquire an influencer in your space with a solid following. Make them editor-in-chief. Bundle their content for free with your software subscription. And make all customers readers.


I’m not sure I can do that.

If the platforms (Apple) are making it more difficult for social media companies (Facebook) to target contacts, how do I make the argument that digital advertising (Google) is the right short-term approach?

(Google is still making money, and they own their own platforms in Chrome and Android, and they are rethinking FLOC and third-party cookies: Their future is tied to making advertising work.)

The earnings miss demonstrates the vulnerability of its advertising-based business model, especially when compared with that of Google. The search giant’s parent, Alphabet, beat its earnings expectations on Tuesday, largely on the heels of 35.7% growth in Q4 of search advertising revenues.


Then, isn’t Google the long-term approach, too?


Doubly painful is that iPhone users are a far more lucrative market to Facebook’s advertisers than, say, Android app users. People who use iPhones to access the internet typically spend more money on products and apps served up to them from mobile ads.

Will I ever be able to target digital advertising through social media again?

(Yes. However it’s years out. And it’s in a much different format.)

Facebook is, radical though this may sound, leaving the social part of social media behind, at least as far as the feed is concerned; this, though, is also following the younger generation, which has moved those sorts of interactions to messaging.

Just checking…

Are you sure no more Facebook advertising?


Zuckerberg said yesterday that that they would be focusing — or pivoting — to video again. It’s all they can do. They’ll pivot to video, then they’ll pivot to reactions, then they’ll pivot to groups, then they’ll pivot to news, then they’ll pivot back to video, all the while, shrinking and becoming less and less relevant until one day we won’t even notice they’re gone.

Does that mean digital advertising organizations are dead, too?

(Maybe. Likely, in their current construct.)

Those who object to the move are thinking short-term. … The history of tech, though, is filled with companies who got comfortable with their flagship businesses and simply floated off to irrelevance.



You mentioned first-party data – How much time do I have to learn what first-party data means to my business?

(Not a lot.)

Sources and references


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