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Let’s start by defining the basics of the subject matter we are speaking of here as advertising, not marketing. 

The basic difference between marketing and advertising can easily be understood by using this resource from the American Marketing Association, which simply quotes: 

 “Marketing is the process of identifying customer needs and determining how best to meet those needs. In contrast, advertising is the exercise of promoting a company and its products or services through paid channels. In other words, advertising is a component of marketing.” 

The key here is “paid channels,” i.e., if a brand or an entity pays a single cent to any entity or platform to get exposure for its message, it will fall under the advertising domain. 

Digital advertising and its scope

Some of the common entities SMEs often pay to promote their brand are Google Ads, Meta Ads (for Facebook/Instagram advertising), Tik-Tok Ads, and LinkedIn (mostly B2B). One could advertise in some marketplaces, such as Shopee, Lazada, and Amazon. There are other sophisticated technologies often referred to as “programmatic advertising”, and with the evolution of digital technology, several more might appear, such as DirectTV or DOOH. While this list is non-exhaustive, generally, the ads these entities show are consumed over the internet, using digital devices, hence the name “Digital advertising.”

Trick questions: 

  1. An influencer accepts payment to market your products – could this be called influencer advertising? Therefore, are influencers considered “a channel” for advertising?
  2. You pay for a platform that digitally delivers your advertising to a big billboard that can only be seen while driving your car down the expressway. Is this digital advertising?
  3. You are watching YouTube on your Android television and seeing an ad. Is this digital advertising?

Tell me what you think by connecting with me at 

Transparency within the digital advertising space

Business owners must focus on results, and many people trade transparency for quick results.

This can be understood by imagining being driven from point A to point B but blindfolded. After all, I got to point B, so how does the journey, the car, the driver or even the route matter? The answer is frankly subjective. 

These tips can help business owners determine whether they are currently blindfolded. I have kept the list small for now. 

The WHO problem: Frankly, anyone can run ads. However, as you scale, the person running your ads needs to be trained enough to help you scale consistently. If the agency conversations are typically managed by an account manager who isn’t certified on ads or cannot offer direct impacts of changes to your campaign, there may be a transparency issue. 

The WHERE problem: Almost all digital ad platforms are consistently under consumer fire about transparency. Each provides several types of reports to show where an ad ran. For instance, on Instagram, the ads can run on feeds and reels, served while someone watches a long video, on a search query, and more. One may not need to bother with perpetually large budgets, but humble budget campaigns usually work better if you focus on a few places. 

The WHEN problem: Often, business owners choose to onboard onto advertising without having direct access to the advertising platform and lose the complete ability to track and audit: 

  • When was my change order executed? 
  • When were the ads optimized, and therefore, what worked? 
  • Can one double down on what worked ASAP instead of the next month? 

The WHAT problem stems from a lack of access to the advertising platform. During my course of offering advertising audits, I found several agency reports showing clients that ads targeted “high-net-worth individuals.” On follow-ups for exactly “what” it was, the answer often came back as “proprietary targeting” that the agency had gathered over the years. 

The WHY problem: “We recommend changing the creative every 2/4 weeks”. “The target audience is small”. “The ad copy needs to be reworked”. Ask why, and there is often an unmeasured hypothesis, whereas the field of advertising provides great numerical measurements for each of these questions. 

So, HOW does one solve it?

Digital advertising runs on machine learning, and every dollar you invest is a dollar spent to train the advertising platform that must belong to the brand; after all, it’s your data. These are some simple techniques that allow you to learn more before you lock yourself into a contract:

  1. Does your agreement make you the owner of the ad platform, and if you were to terminate the agency, would you retain access to it? 
  2. Have you been given administrator access to your ad platforms? 
  3. Can you ensure that your funding generates PDPA-compliant leads and that the service provider isn’t selling them to your competitors? 
  4. Are you served by a named account specialist who clearly documents changes done on your platform and, therefore, a list of what worked or what did not? 
  5. Does your service provider offer data-driven insights into why a change is recommended?

The advertising space has deep underlying issues; I can only present a few. Readers are invited to conduct a simple Google search to learn more about the negative impacts of ad transparency. 

Mister Marketeer has operated its advertising trade with fundamental practices of transparency and offers free consultations for clients who want a transparent and sustainable solution for their business. Contact us here.

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