2017: The Year Marketers Must Rebuild Trust

There’s one topic I can’t talk about enough these days.

It came up in my recent post on the Sysomos blog about why I joined the company: “At the center of it all is a lack of trust among marketers, agencies, publishers, technology partners, and consumers.”

It was a recurring theme in my VentureBeat column and related SlideShare on the 10 Plagues of Marketing.

And now it’s the theme on my post about the year ahead, “Why 2017 Must be the Year Marketers and Media Rebuild Trust.”

It starts this way:

In 2016, we lost legends like Muhammad Ali, Sharon Jones, John Glenn, David Bowie, Leonard Cohen and Gwen Ifill. We even lost Abe Vigoda, who in recent years was perhaps most famous for being the subject of IsAbeVigodaDead.com. And yet, as sad as it is to not have these luminaries with us, what I miss most in 2016 is the loss of trust.

Trust has been eroding for years, but 2016 felt like the tsunami that wiped away whatever was left. Oxford Dictionaries named “post-truth” as its international word of the year, and it seems fitting that the word itself sounds like it has no meaning. The counterpart to “post-truth” is “fake news,” and yet there are no repercussions to sharing “fake news” (or, as it was previously known, “lies,” or “propaganda”). Social networks, media companies, politicians, voters, pundits and others who lie tend to only reap rewards without facing consequences. Friends and family members, meanwhile, fact-check each other and then digitally defriend each other or make plans to avoid each other during the holidays.

The ad industry has become an enabler of this post-truth era. Alongside, above, or below practically every lie that’s spread, there’s an ad. But it gets worse for advertisers….

Head over to Adweek to see where it goes.

When an Adweek editor contacted me to take part in the 2017 series, this was the first topic I wanted to write about. It’s pretty much the only thing worth writing about.

Now, I know there are two issues with this being a focus of mine right now:

  1. I’m not working for some ad verification company or anything directly in the “trust” space. But that’s an opportunity too. Most of us aren’t. So we all have to do our part in some small way.
  2. There’s the “glass houses” issue. I’ve made mistakes. I’ve worked for companies that have made mistakes. I have regrets. I will make mistakes again. I will work for bosses or clients who will want to do something in a way I disagree is the most above board way to do it, and I will choose the non-confrontational route, saying I’m picking my battles. But there’s also a difference between doing work that doesn’t live up to best practices and outright committing fraud by omission or commission. Not everything that goes on in the industry falls into a neat little black or white box. But enough does. I’ve seen way too much of it, and the more I learn about what’s happening, the angrier I get. And similarly, it gives me greater appreciation for those who are trying to do things right – like David Smith, whose shop Mediasmith came out with this brilliant Client Bill of Rights this year.

This is probably the last post of 2017 here.

Thanks for putting your trust in me with your time and attention. I couldn’t be more excited for 2017, and if there are ways to collaborate or learn from each other in the coming year, that’d be the best kind of holiday gift I could imagine. (Well, downtime with my family is nice too.)

Happy New Year.