The industry has lost its way: It’s time all of us in adland stood up for what is right

From producing sub-standard work to ad fraud to staff exploitation, ad land is in a poor state, says Tobias Wilson. In this guest post, the IAB Singapore chairman urges everyone in the industry to stand up and be counted.

2017 is well underway. Trump is in, the left couldn’t be more at war with the right, with both getting more extreme as the days go by, and I’m pissed off.

Tobias Wilson IAB Singapore
Now, I’m no political commentator, but I feel that in the current political climate not even the POTUS can be taken seriously.

So what do I care? Well, I do care. In fact, that’s kind of what got me writing.

Why do I care? Why do I feel responsible?

I mean, it’s ‘not my country’. I played no part in the creation of The President Elect, nor the election of ‘it’. Therefore, I should look the other way and go on with my life, right? Wrong.

In my opinion, it’s this exact mentality that has gotten America and ad-land into the position we’re in, and let’s not even mention Brexit.

For too long, ad-land (read: The Human Race) has been chasing profits, minimizing costs, reducing fees, cutting headcount, promoting substandard talent, producing sub-par work and guess what? It’s all coming to a head.

We’re fuelled by a quick win, blinded by shortsightedness, driven by money and we’re screaming towards the end of our business as we know it, happily. WTF happened to us?

Globally, we’ve got quality issues. Just listen to Marc Pritchard from P&G or Randall Rothenberg from the IAB who both went public this week.

We’ve got quality issues from an ad-fraud perspective, from a reporting perspective, from an overbilling perspective, from an HR and staff exploitation perspective.

We’ve got a  tremendous amount of issues. But who’s responsible? Creative is not responsible for media’s issues, ad-tech isn’t responsible for creative’s issues and media is not to blame for ad-tech’s issues.

So, everyone in their collective corners should look the other way and go on with their blind pursuit of their next target and bonus, right?

Hmmmn, notice a pattern here?

So my questions to you at this point, as an ad-person, marketing-person or someone from another industry are thus.

Are you ‘looking the other way’ when you should be standing up for what is right?

If the answer is yes (which I’m guessing it will be for most people, otherwise I wouldn’t be writing this), then my second question is: do you care enough about your fellow humans to do anything about it?

Now, more importantly, what exactly are YOU going to do about it??

Take a second, it’s important.

Let’s look at it another way.


Where do you sit on the care x effort matrix?

Now don’t get me wrong. I absolutely adore our industry and believe in it with all my being.

As an industry, we have some of the brightest minds in the world working on solutions for clients every day. We just don’t have enough of them.

We have some of the most forward thinking and respectful clients in the world, just not enough of them.

We have some of the most courageous leaders in the business world, just not enough of them.

The problem with this equation is that the majority tends to rule. In our case, this is leading to mediocrity. Once again, a pattern emerges.

We need to re-calibrate ourselves by understanding where our true value lies.

We must demand fair and reasonable compensation for providing said value instead of relying on old revenue models and complicated jargon, trying to make ourselves ‘sound’ smarter and more valuable than we are, in areas that we aren’t.

Only then will we be able to build businesses that can afford to attract and retain the calibre of talent required to put out the quality of work that will have a demonstrable effect on consumers and therefore the bottom lines of our clients.

I for one believe that we will reinvent ourselves, I mean, if Kodak can bring it back, then ad-land can too.

After all, our jobs depend on it.

Tobias Wilson is chief executive of APD Singapore and chairman of IAB Singapore.


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