It was alleged that this intriguing pull quote echoed the sentiments of agency buyers at a gathering of agency executives dealing with the topic of “Transparency in Media Buying.” The event, hosted by Digiday in London, provided participants with complete anonymity with regard to their name and or company affiliation in order to encourage an open exchange of information on the topic. Understood.
Participants shared a range of thoughts as to why advertisers weren’t truly interested in media transparency. The ideas proffered by this group included:
- A belief that advertisers were concerned about the costs associated with revamping how digital media is purchased.
- Advertiser concern related to the impact of “overhauling how much” they spend on media.
- A general lack of advertiser interest in the “mechanical” detail that underlies the media acquisition and delivery process.
There are two major problems with this perspective.
The first is the belief among digital media supply chain participants that advertisers should bear the financial burden related to the poor decisions made by agencies, ad tech vendors and publishers with regard to how media buys were executed, tracked and reported on. For years these intermediaries knowingly shirked their fiduciary responsibility to serve the advertiser’s best interest and to safeguard their media investment. To come back now and suggest that if advertisers want a return to normalcy it will cost them more in fees and the actual rates paid for media inventory is preposterous. Did these firms reduce their fees and costs to advertisers while they were participating in media arbitrage and purchasing low quality, high risk inventory (often without the advertiser’s knowledge)? Of course not. They padded their respective bottom lines at the expense of advertisers.
Secondly, the notion that advertisers aren’t interested in the mechanics and science behind the planning, buying, stewardship and performance analysis of media buys seems to be misguided. Or at the very least, not representative of the views held by a majority of advertisers, many who have cited media transparency as one of their most important concerns in industry survey after industry survey. Additionally, Gartner Research recently released the results of its “CMO Spend” survey and noted that chief marketing officers at advertiser organizations in the U.S. and UK were focused on areas such as email marketing, online media management and digital analytics as their top tech priorities. This further underscores advertiser interest in leveraging technology to improve transparency and drive media performance.
Perhaps the clients represented by the agency personnel at the Digiday event are different than those with whom we interact with on a regular basis or those who participate in industry surveys.
Or perhaps the more accurate sentiment is that no one on the agency, ad tech or publisher side wants full transparency. Either way, if the media supply chain doesn’t recognize and begin to address client concerns and the corrective actions that advertisers are already taking the risk of revenue contraction and ultimately disintermediation is real.
One only needs to read the Association of National Advertiser’s (ANA) October, 2018 study; “The Continued Rise of the In-House Agency” to understand the cost to intermediaries of not taking advertisers’ best interest to heart:
- 78% of ANA members surveyed had an in-house agency in 2018 versus 58% in 2013 and 42% in 2008.
- 90% of the survey respondents indicated that the workload of their in-house agencies had increased in the past year, including 65% for whom the workload had increased significantly.
Media Supply chain stakeholders may want to heed the words of 20th century Russian-American writer and philosopher Ayn Rand:
“We can ignore reality, but we cannot ignore the consequences of ignoring reality.”