Recent criticism of online ad effectiveness is just the latest instalment of a long-running debate over whether advertising does what it says, but a senior strategist says the the idea that online advertising is the new dotcom bubble is too simplistic. 

That was the argument put forward in a widely read article from November 2019 by the Dutch-headquartered international publication, The Correspondent, which analysed the online advertising industry’s claims of effectiveness.

In an exclusive response written for WARC, Gareth Price, former Planning Director at Wunderman Thompson and now Brand Strategist at Facebook, counters some of The Correspondent’s analysis, reasoning that much of it was based on online ads’ direct response rates. Given that all advertising works on a sliding scale of immediacy, this is a deeply flawed way of measuring effectiveness, he says.

“Like all advertising, online advertising can work in different ways. And, like all advertising, by clearly defining the different roles it can play in building brands and delivering sales, we can better understand how to more effectively use and measure it online.”

Price draws on a paper authored by the founder of account planning while at JWT, Stephen King, in 1975, ‘Practical Progress from a Theory of Advertisements’. “Unlike many before him and since, he understood that a single theory couldn’t explain how all advertising works.”

“Whether it’s offline or online, advertising has always worked in different ways and has always had different roles to play in delivering sales across different time spans.

“As marketers, we shouldn’t confuse the ability to measure something accurately with proof of whether it works or not. While methodologies for measuring long-term online advertising continue to evolve, it would be flawed to conclude it’s incapable of working in the different ways advertising has always worked.”

Sourced from The Correspondent, WARC