Trust is the Special Sauce of Advertising Sales

Advertisers want the perfect targeting that is offered by programmatic advertising. And why not? “Just let the algorithm do it,” they say. “And it would be nice if no more advertising sales people would call!” Alas, it is not to be. The most alarming estimates are that only a quarter of digital spending reaches its target. There are many estimates, none are comforting.

The world of programmatic advertising, evolved from the vast shady world of digital advertising networks. Sales people promised vast reach to big-budget advertisers through name-brand web sites with a single insertion order, but delivered many impressions on fake content or no-name blogs, even x-rated sites that popped up multiple extra invisible window to deliver an “impression.”

A lot has changed since the early days. Many levels of fraud protection, simplest and most obvious being the IAB’s “dot-Text” clearinghouse to assure ads are placed only on legitimate sites, not spoofed sites.

But one thing has not changed, only grown: the amount of money available to successful cheaters. With hundreds of billions of dollars flowing through the system, finding a way to skim off only a little bit is big money. Organized crime has organized itself to do it. And klepto-governments have utilized the system to finance their own shadowy dis-information campaigns. Big money available, means big shadowy tech aimed at siphoning it.

Where once, a fraudster, or dirty trickster like Roger Stone, had to pay money to have flyers or faked-up newspapers printed and distributed to distribute their misinformation, or rely on inefficient, old-fashioned, word-of-mouth, now the same cheaters can create fake news and earn revenue while they simply make up stories and headlines, or seed Fear, Uncertainty and Doubt, and worse. Just make a fake web-site, drive traffic with outrageous social media posts, and plug into the real-time-bidding advertising universe. Viola! Money in the bank!

The system is part of the problem.

Many believe that ever-smarter Artificial Intelligence can stop the fraud. But with as much as 20%, some say as high as 30% of advertising being fraudulent, that’s billions of fraudulent revenue at stake, the bad-guys are working their AI, too. The AI arms race won’t end, just get more sophisticated.

Columbia Journalism Review recently covered a so-called entrepreneur who built the “BreakYourOwnNews” dot com.  It is just one example of how human ingenuity creates new ways to cheat and cloaks it in a platitude about “democratizing” media.

Base Your Selling on Trust

Advertising sales people for legitimate media must establish the want and need to avoid fraud, and for advertisers to advertise in trusted environments, as a key assumption of their sales persuasion. Use “challenger selling” by asking a customer choose between two alternative brands. Trust is a big part of it. Advertisers don’t need advertising to win with price. Advertising works through trust. No trust; no transactions.

In April 2019 Advertiser Perceptions published new research showing that advertisers are factoring “trust” into their advertising decisions. Sarah Bolton, executive vice president, points out “Sellers have nothing to lose, and everything to gain, by seizing the mantle of trust in simple, straightforward ways.”

Traditional media must utilize better sales practices. Digital media emphasizes the need for targeting to reduce waste, and social media to replace old-fashioned word-of-mouth. Traditional media must emphasize the need for trust before targeting. Ask power-questions that get the client thinking about the importance of trust. Then ask questions about how the client builds trust-building into their marketing efforts. Trust me, it will work to spark more sales.

About Daniel M. Ambrose

Ambrose, launched, corp. in 1994 to provide sophisticated strategy consulting and advertising sales training to advertising-driven media clients in the U.S. and abroad. Starting with the founding of and iVillage in 1995, has worked with hundreds of clients to help accelerate advertising revenue growth.