According to a recent article on the BBC, digital advertising is in crisis.

Advertising fraud is prevalent, and many ads are never seen by their intended audience. Add to that the threat to the internet’s fundamental business model by the increasing use of sophisticated ad blocking software and you have a ‘perfect storm’ – which could end up in all of us internet users paying for content.

The article pointed to two basic assumptions about digital advertising that have proved to be erroneous. One – that serving an ad to the internet counts as an impression regardless of whether the ad was even seen or not and, two – that clicks on an advert means that the someone had purchased the product being promoted.

These problematic assumptions have led to a skewed notion of the effective measurement of digital advertising and marketing activities.

Some ads are not seen because of poor website design. Viewers simply don’t scroll down far enough ‘below the fold’. The ads that are placed there will, in all probability, never be viewed.

However, there has been an explosion in online advertising technology. Currently, there are about 2,000 digital-only ad-tech companies. Most use programmatic advertising, automated systems run by the likes of Google and Microsoft, that promise to match every ad with the person the ad is most likely to influence.

They work by sending a series of requests to other web domains to auction your screen time to the highest bidder. These ad exchanges set cookies with unique tracking IDs, many of which log user data such as location, gender, age, and likes and dislikes based on browsing behaviour. This data enables advertisers to judge your worth as a customer and, therefore, how much to bid to show you an ad. When one of the advertisers wins the auction, an ad appears on your screen – the culmination of a process which takes less than a tenth of a second.

Measurability has not got any easier either because many ads that we see are fake click bait. These ‘bad ads’ are a real problem for digital advertisers and marketers.

However, the digital marketing industry is acting against fraud and automated ad bots that are plaguing the internet. The problem comes down to trust. Many consumers just simply don’t trust the ads that they are seeing.

To improve trust, organisations like the Internet Advertising Bureau (IAB) are introducing trusted certifications and regulations which are now starting to drive growth in digital advertising. According to the IAB, digital ad spend in the US reached a record $88 Billion in 2017, with mobile accounting for 57 per cent of advertising revenue.

So, like Mark Twain, reports of the death of digital advertising may be exaggerated. And digital marketers can breathe again.