Ag businesses, beware of charlatans

Some ethically challenged businesspeople believe that many involved in agricultural businesses, especially farmers, are ignorant of the “ways of the world.”


William Smith, Delta Farm Press

Mar 08, 2018


Smith is Professor of Marketing in the Graziadio School of Business and Management at Pepperdine University


As ag-related businesses, especially producers, become more aware of the competitive advantages of branding products that have been viewed as commodities for centuries, providers of advertising and other marketing services are taking notice. They see opportunities to add a new segment of customers in an era when global competition and pricing pressures from major customers are eroding their profit margins.


If an advertising agency sees lower profits from formerly reliable and sophisticated users of consumer advertising such as Procter & Gamble (P&G) and AT&T, they will begin to seek new markets that offer the potential for higher profit margins. That’s where the agriculture industry comes into play.


An understanding of the backstory will provide interesting insights into what is going on and how a changing environment will lead to seeking of new customers in agriculture by providers of advertising services.


In early 2017, Marc Pritchard, P&G’s chief brand officer, delivered a stern warning to digital media giants such as Google (owner of YouTube) and Facebook that if they did not make the measurement of advertising’s impact more transparent, P&G would significantly reduce the amount they spend in this form of communicating with its markets.


Research done by major users of digital advertising clearly indicated that advertising producers (with Google being the largest) were “stretching” their results through the use of “bots” (Web robots) that indicated that a human had been exposed to an advertisement when, in fact, only a machine had “seen” the message.


I won’t try to get into a lot of depth here, but the basic claim is that advertisers were being intentionally cheated (defrauded, if you prefer) by providers such as Google and Facebook through the use of technology that would exaggerate the audience of their digital advertising (generally measured as the number of “clicks”). That is, the providers (e.g., Google) were stealing from the advertisers by intentionally making false claims as to the numbers of people who were being exposed to their digital ads online. These practices clearly indicated that these purveyors were charlatans.


Pritchard and other senior executives of major buyers of digital advertising indicated that any seller of digital advertising who did not become “certified” by the Media Rating Council ( as having valid, reliable, and effective processes (use accurate and transparent if you prefer) for measuring exposure to advertising (of any type) would no longer be able to sell their advertising services to companies such as P&G.


Billions of dollars ...


Unscrupulous ...