The obvious question now is what is being done about it? Is the status quo prevailing or is there an actual re-engineering of the brand/agency ecosystem taking place that will bring back trust into these complex relationships? One year after the publication of the original K2 report and subsequent recommendation, the ANA published their assessment of how much progress has been made in the “ANA Report on Media Transparency: One Year Later”.
Whilst the issue is now increasingly front of mind for many brands and re-engineering efforts are accelerating, the report concludes:
“The industry is on the road to restoring trust, but has a long way to go. To preserve marketplace integrity and protect shareholder values, advertisers cannot let up and must continue to pressure agencies for complete transparency. The delays and public denials by agencies (despite reality) cannot continue. Agencies should prove their sincerity through cooperation in audits and legitimate contractual provisions that ensure transparency, or make it clear where an agency refuses to embrace it”.
After P&G threw down the gauntlet back in January of this year, P&G has been at the forefront of the issue and P&G chief brand officer, Marc Pritchard, has made it a mandate to clean up digital media transparency. He presented his five-point plan for P&G and assessment of progress to date at a keynote last month.
With billions of dollars at stake, the ANA and progressive brands like P&G, Unilever, Johnson & Johnson, Chase and Bank of America, are raising the wide-ranging importance of addressing media transparency and providing leadership by example for the advertiser and agency communities. Hardly a day goes by without another article or revelation on the topic.
A foundational step toward media transparency is to take accountability and ownership of marketing performance data, and put in place the people, processes and technology required to aggregate, harmonize, organize and convert the data into actionable insights and decision making. Some major brands are addressing this by bringing key functions, like programmatic advertising, in-house:
- Sprint’s digital chief on programmatic: ‘We are taking full ownership”
- Deutsche Telekom’s senior manager of international media and digital transformation on the topic: “The goal is to ensure we have the people and processes internally who really know what goes on in the engine room when it comes to how programmatic advertising works, how adtech stacks are put together, what type of margins suppliers take and whether those are justified.”
- Philips overhauls media buying, brings in-house, to make it ‘much more strategic’.
“We’ve got to be able to see over the walled gardens of the Googles, Facebooks, Twitters and Snapchats and be able to measure across the whole market and be able to really understand the dynamics between TV and digital. Whenever there is a question mark in any market that isn’t good for market growth—we really need to focus on making sure that we’re not having people mark their own homework and we find ways of engaging the overall digital media platform.”
In this journey to transparency, organizational readiness becomes a critical factor in determining the most effective and efficient path. Brands need to be prepared to skill up in areas that they may have previously not paid attention to, or have outsourced to agencies. To this end, the ANA has partnered with Neustar to launch an Analytics Center of Excellence to help provide tools, recommendations and best practices as brands prepare for data ownership and enhancing their understanding of data.
Neustar conducted a survey of 800 marketing executives with the Forbes CMO practice and found that those marketers who invest more than 10% of their working media budgets in marketing performance measurement and analytics are three times as likely to exceed their growth plan by over 25%. It’s clear that with media transparency now as a business mandate for many brands, organization capabilities are maturing and those that make the investments are seeing the business impact and payoff in how they are driving efficiencies and effectiveness from their marketing budgets.
We’ll continue to report out on the media transparency initiative and the progress that brands, agencies and the vendor community are making. We have the privileged position of partnering with many of the world’s largest and most progressive brands and seeing this transformation to transparency unfolding in front of us in exciting, innovative and impactful ways.