I have seen, in recent years, a growing and negative shift in the sentiment towards online ads and, more holistically, towards digital marketing.
At the beginning, the internet was a portfolio of promising new marketing channels. Today, the internet is a crowded, sweaty dance floor of ads, muddied by a convoluted digital supply chain. It lacks any real semblance of what great marketing is supposed to be about - delivering the right message, to the right person, at the right time, and in the right place.
The result? Consumers have developed a strong distaste towards corporations and their digital strategies, which, among other things, creates piss-poor marketing performance, billions of dollars in wasted ad spend, and an entire industry left reeling without any clear path forward.
Consider the first display advertisement, which had a click-through rate of 44%. Today marketers are lucky to earn a CTR above .1%.
The predictable relationship between the growing negative sentiment from consumers and decreasing digital marketing performance confirms for me one thing:
You, dear consumers, are sick of it. You are sick of the incessant assault of annoying, irrelevant ads. You are sick of being followed - no, stalked - around the internet by companies, products, and services that you simply do not care to have a relationship with. You are sick of the unsanctioned collection, inequitable sale, and inappropriate use of your personal data by people and entities who ultimately know nothing about you. You are sick of being treated as an “impression”, or as a “click”, or as a “conversion”, because in reality, you are none of those things. You are a person.
You are a human being.
I want you to know that we hear you. We have witnessed. And we are going to do something about it, starting right now with this letter.
The failure of the digital advertising community is complicated. It was never intended to be this way, and it’s not the fault of any one stakeholder. It’s easy to point the finger at brand-side marketers, but the fact is, marketing technologies, advertising technologies, agencies, publishers, and advertising platforms share as much, if not more, of the blame for the convoluted, inefficient, and compromised state of programmatic display, paid search, paid social, content syndication, affiliate marketing, and virtually every paid digital channel.
I could speak at length on “how” we got here, but that’s not the purpose of this letter.
The truth is, we are here now.
The internet is now a marketplace where big companies take your data, and, in exchange, offer you a carcass of what were once relevant ads. All the while, your experience on the web has been utterly compromised.
Time and again, digital marketing trade pubs, blogs, and influencers write about the crappy performance of digital channels, but few will take the leap to understand that it’s you, consumers, that are bearing the larger weight of what’s wrong with digital advertising.
You are the end of the road - the final touchpoint. It is your internet experience that has been compromised - by companies selling to you when you’re interested in other business entirely.
At its most fundamental level, the internet evolved to connect us. To connect people to ideas, to new thoughts, to knowledge, to solutions, to products and services and, in the end, to other people.
We connect on the internet because we want to connect. We connect because whatever we are looking for is on the other end of our journey. The web is the means, the channel, to that end. In this context, journey is the operative word. The path someone takes on the internet is not as random as some may believe. We travel from point A to Z through a series of closely related touch points. If marketers aren’t positioning their messages at the time and place that it is relevant, they are simply being annoying.
What if every ad you saw on the internet was relevant to you at the time and place you saw it? What if everything you are looking for was right in front of you when it mattered? What if you weren’t bothered by brands that you didn’t care about? And what if all this were possible without using any personal data? In this world, the internet would fall into an equal exchange of value between internet users, publishers, advertisers, and advertising platforms. Ads would hardly be… ads. Instead, they would be relevant pathways between a person’s needs and a brand that can solve their problems.
In this world, your experience on the internet would be vastly different than it is today.
Pushy becomes helpful. Annoying becomes relevant. Brand-and-consumer relationships become balanced and equitable.
Great marketing, as we've always known, is about putting consumers first and helping them find what they need. At the end of the day, companies exist to solve problems. We vote with our dollars on who solves the most meaningful ones, and the winners are the ones that show up in the right place and time to save the day. And we thank them for that.
Great marketing is not about force-feeding your message to the masses and surviving off the few stragglers that click through the ugly, cumbersome nets of digital advertising. That model (ie. the “traditional” model of digital) is wasteful and ineffective, and it only benefits the massive ad networks and the convoluted digital supply chain.
What if digital marketers thought about things in a different way?
What if they had the tools to help consumers find what they’re looking for, and do it without the commoditization of personal data.
This is the world DemandJump seeks to create.
We are on a journey to save consumers from irrelevant, invasive, and inequitable advertising. By giving marketers the tools to see the internet with clarity - to understand consumer wants without invading their right to privacy.
We work for an equal exchange of value online.
We are calling on marketers to join the fight against bad ads.
We are calling on marketers to save consumers.