A relentless focus on short-term advertising is acting to the detriment of long-term brand building, according to the CEO of the Guardian Media Group.

At Advertising Week Europe yesterday, David Pemsel maintained that the problem facing the industry is far bigger than his own company’s revenues – the Guardian is coming to the end of a three-year strategy to break even since forecasting a seismic £87m EBITDA deficit in 2015.

Pemsel’s career includes running an ad agency and being a marketing director: “I was brought up through the school of building the brand and creating value, and I look at the landscape of the moment and the constant optimisation, it’s almost beating consumers around the head for that short-term tactical sale.”

He contrasted that with the premium environment that the Guardian has worked hard to create, one which offers trust and quality and which he argues will build value over time. “What I’m worried about is whether that sounds naïve now, and that it’s all about conversion.

“I might sound like a dinosaur, but ultimately consumers go to brands that they trust and that they have empathy with and I’m just not sure I’ve seen any strategy from any brand for some time that talks about building empathy with its consumers.”

FMCG companies struggling with an absence of margin, for example, have been forced to monetise right at the bottom of the funnel. Quite how that can be changed, Pemsel isn’t sure, but he believes that “destination is really important”.

Some, especially technologists, may say destination is dead, he added, but the Guardian has never wanted to give that up and leave itself to the murky waves of virality. That would surrender the organisation’s ability to offer its own differentiated advertising environment and monetise its readers.

Pemsel echoed comments he made at the ISBA conference earlier this month in which he talked about how the company is trying to diversify its revenue away from just advertising.

He contrasted the Guardian’s mission to provide independent, values-based journalism with the online advertising titans, especially Facebook, which he criticised for presiding over a platform that monetises virality with no sense of responsibility over content. Based on those differences, he said, it’s very hard to find commonality.

The latest PAMCo data, released today, shows that newbrands in the UK reach 44.5 million a week in total, more than Facebook and Google’s total UK weekly reach of 38 million and 38.5 million respectively. In total 25 million people are reading newsbrands every day, with digital readership up 12% year on year.

Sourced from WARC