Perhaps the Freakonomics podcast episode from a few issues back (Does Advertising Actually Work?) was just ahead of the curve by a month or two, because we’re suddenly seeing a deluge of new buzz on this topic.
With all the industry changes in the air (iOS 14, limitations on web cookies, increasing regulation/governmental enforcement action around adtech and adjacent services, and greater general awareness both by advertisers and end users, just to name a few), I think this is likely to become a more regular subject.
Here are a few of the top selections I've seen in recent weeks:
This is the Twitter thread that seems to have kicked the current hornet’s nest.
Uber’s fight against ad fraud has been popping up in industry publications and podcasts on-and-off for years at this point. Who knows why this thread finally pushed the story into the public consciousness…but it did.
Uber isn’t the only recent example where ad spend reductions didn’t lead to obvious changes in campaign results.
In this article, Rand Fishkin runs through a few similar cases. He also takes a crack at explaining the context (ads have long been seen as predictable option, which makes them a go-to tactic for many teams), and recommends some actions marketers should take if they have questions about the performance of their own campaigns (hint: campaign audits…but that’s easier said than done).
All the uncertainty caused by iOS 14 and web cookie degradation (not to mention the resulting reduction in data transparency, which is necessary to actually do audits) means many advertisers are going to be looking for safe havens over the next year.
It’s quite likely that Google, Facebook, so-called ‘endemic sites’ (think of examples like IMDB or Edmunds, where ads can naturally complement the site content itself — basically contextual-targeting-by-default), and other large publishers like Hulu and eBay are going to be the winners.
(Of course, there are also plenty of non-paid tactics to explore!)