From ad fraud to ad blocking to the over-commoditisation of premium digital ad inventory, it seems as if virtually all of the ills of the online advertising ecosystem can be traced back to one single measurement problem: the perpetual preoccupation with the click. The industry measures clicks because it's easier than doing anything else, yet at the same time by so doing it is trapping itself in an ongoing cycle of short-termism.
This cycle of short-termism has really started to make itself felt in the first half of 2017. There has been more than one exposé in the press about how unscrupulous use of programmatic advertising has led to big name brands appearing next to extremist and unsavoury content, while the world's largest advertiser, P&G, has publicly demanded more transparency from digital advertising and the platforms on which it appears.
This insatiable appetite for enormous digital campaign scale at the risk of brand safety is in part driven by the simplistic use of clicks to assess ad impact. Marketers chase clicks and to obtain clicks they chase scale irrespective of whether their ad appears in a quality environment or not. However, a focus on short-term outcomes like clicks is a recipe for long-term disaster and does a huge disservice to brand creative, about which such a binary behavioural measure can tell us nothing of impact.