The results are in and the 2016 Marketing Word of the Year is…Transparency. That’s according to the Association of National Advertisers, which polls its members every year on the one word that captures the current climate of the industry.

Exciting? Not really (not as much as last year’s selection of content marketing, but I have some bias there). But it’s definitely apropos given what’s been going on in marketing and advertising, and frankly, the world at large.

Marketers and publishers are struggling to fix some things that are broken, including:

  • The client/media agency relationship: As a marketer, you should be very concerned with this issue. Is your agency being completely transparent with you about incentives they’re receiving from media companies while working on your behalf? If someone is buying media on your behalf, make sure you ask them the hard questions.
  • Analytics around social media: This is a big problem if you’re buying ad space on social media platforms, especially Facebook. Facebook has had some major problems with measurement accuracy recently. In November, we found out they’ve been miscalculating organic reach of posts, video completions and time spent on Instant Articles. In September, they were found to be inflating how long users were watching videos. And just last week, Marketing Land reported Facebook has been miscalculating reactions to Live Video and link engagement.
  • Fake news: No marketer wants their content published alongside fake news about the death of Alec Baldwin or Hillary Clinton in handcuffs (neither happened, BTW). But that’s what’s happening when mainstream publishers and social media sites make money by installing ad widgets bringing in article from the far corners of the internet. It’s the dark side of programmatic that shakes the trust of discerning readers, damages the publisher’s brand, as well as any brand (i.e., YOUR brand) posting content on that media site. Facebook and Google are battling back, but it’s still an issue.
  • Native ads and user trust: Native ads are great for brands in terms of traffic and exposure, not so great when it comes to engendering trust. 43 percent of readers responding to a recent Contently survey say it would damage how much they trust a publisher if they posted native ads from untrustworthy brands. In addition, most people want their native ads on a separate part of the page or with some kind of border or shading around it to make it distinct.

The Solution: The Post-Digital CMO and Brand

While analytics and native ads can in part be fixed by changes to the technology and platforms they’re built on, what we really need in 2017 is a shift in mindset around content marketing. The good news is, many brands already “get it” and want to do the right thing for their customers and prospects. They’re moving to what Forrester has coined the post-digital age.

Post-digital as a concept recognizes that customers interact with brands pretty much everywhere – online and offline. However, it goes beyond just the letter of acknowledging that your brand must be always-on. The spirit of post-digital is that brands should be working together with customers to understand what they really need, personalize their interaction and act as a helpful guide to the appropriate solution. In short, don’t trick ‘em into doing your bidding, because post-digital consumers are way smarter than that now.

The CMOs and brands that get this approach will be working on ways to fix what’s broken above (and that list is not exhaustive) over the coming year. They’ll partner with equally transparent agencies who understand how to communicate with customers in more genuine ways. And together, they’ll make the changes so next year you can read about “How We Fixed What WAS Broken in 2017.”