“The single biggest reason your ads look crap”

Jason Trout, our Global Chief Digital Officer dropped a load of truth bombs at MAD//Anywhere London

16 March 2021

Scroll to the bottom to watch the talk if you'd prefer.

I’m looking beyond linear and into convergent and digital environments. In short, the reason your ads look crap is because you probably don’t know what happens to your ad copy once its been approved - or worse you may choose not to care.

How can this be I hear you say? 

To quote Yale professor Edward Tufte There are only two industries that call their customers 'users': illegal drugs and software”

We know Quantity is a key part of successful campaigns and so is Quality but it has to be traded away as a compromise, doesn't it? Getting creative right is the single most important choice you can make, but can you have Quantity of Quality? A crap ad is still a crap ad wherever you put it.

There are three key parts to this equation:

  1. Firstly, does the execution do the job it is designed to do for the intended audience. This is subjective.
  2. Secondly, with the demise of the cookie, context is back! Is the content going to support or jar with the environment or device, this is also subjective.
  3. Lastly, is the technical quality of the asset correct for the intended device or aspect ratio and platform. This is precise, system driven and easy to resolve.

Lots of attention is paid to the first two and very little to the last. I know it’s not  particularly sexy, and as drug dealers know, changing habits is hard. 


In the overall video ecosystem the good and the bad coexist. On the Linear and BVoD side of things it’s a “One to many” broadcast environment. Targeting is broad, but the infrastructure and trust in the medium is very high - despite shortcomings in audience measurement. 

Advertisers don’t worry about ads appearing in inappropriate content - it’s regulated. Nor do advertisers worry about ads appearing in a break alongside a competitor - It’s governed. 

It’s well grooved and universally adopted. As such you can get a broadcast ad from final finish to broadcaster in 2 days, sometimes 1, we’ve even done it in under 4 hours.  


So over to camp Digital, let’s see how they’re getting on. They’ve got huge technical investment in the pipes to access highly targeted audiences at scale in real time. Clever use of first and third party data to build and nurture relationships across multiple touchpoints. 

Finally, ambitious media plans seek out tribes of passionate consumers nestling in curated groups across the internet. With all of this great tech and capability you would expect digital to be the gold standard in speed and efficiency. But it’s not. It’s not even close. 

We know from Clients and Media Agencies that it can take 2 - 3 WEEKS to get a digital campaign live. Yes, that’s 2-3 weeks - that’s 7 to 10 times as long as old school Linear or BVoD. That means the Land Rover Finance deal or the Gucci Sale that ended 3 days ago was never actually seen by huge swathes of online customers as the correct copy only landed today. 

In our own independent research that we commissioned with Colab shamefully revealed that more than three quarters of all digital campaigns start late - this is just not good enough. 


Stretched 16:9 aspect ratio for Disney +


Original 4:3 aspect ratio on Fox

Above you can see that a 4:3 piece of content has been stretched to fit a 16:9 aspect ratio. The stretched version completely misses the visual gag. It’s the same issue for your highly valuable advertising copy. 

So, why should you care about this deeply unsexy stuff?

  • Clients: You want ads to be experienced in the best possible way 
  • Creative or Post production: You want your work enjoyed across the platforms and devices your clients customers inhabit.
  • Media Agency folk: You are fed up with being kicked every day,  for campaigns starting late. 
  • Programmatic buyers: You've got the best desk setup - but unfulfilled bids because of errors which means no creative is served.  
  • Publishers: You fall off the plan because they didn’t make the file to your spec, meaning the impressions got served on YT or FB, again.

So, if you are happy to spray gun out crap ads, and you only see users, then keep your head and let your dealers run the workflows. Users will rightly see you as a low effort organisation. Or alternatively, start giving a s**t

Larry David=

Love your customers, at scale, so they experience brand messages how they were intended, in context and on time. Change your dirty habits, automate your workflows,  enjoy the Quantity of Quality with your customers - they deserve you, and you may just deserve them in time.  

Feel free to watch my talk here:


Categorised as:

  • Events
  • Opinion

By Jason Trout