You don’t know what you don’t know: More marketers worry about media buying transparency

May 15, 2014

Transparency issues between marketers and their media agencies are on the rise, per a new ANA/Forrester Research survey.

Forty-six percent of marketers have concerns about the level of transparency between themselves and their media agency(s). Further, concerns about transparency have increased for 42 percent of marketers over the past year, and have decreased for only 13 percent. 

The issues that cause the most concern are:

  • Reliance on served impressions, rather than viewable impressions, for digital media
  • Not knowing if my agency makes money from the media sellers on my media buy (e.g., are they getting rebates from the media?)
  • How and where digital advertising gets placed (e.g., frequency caps, inappropriate content, share of voice, above-the-fold)
  • Lack of visibility into data used to define audience targeting, especially in digital media

As stated in a previous blog, there is a transparency crisis in the advertising industry and this new research further confirms that. What are the implications for marketers?

  • You don’t know what you don’t know. Marketers need to be aware of the transparency issues facing the industry and ask questions. Naive marketers could find themselves taken advantage of.
  • Marketers should incorporate language in their agency contracts to provide protection. For example, language should specify how rebates made on a client’s business will be handled. Such contractual language should be at both the agency and holding company levels to address an agency’s overall arrangements and ensure the fair share allocation of total agency incentives/rebates, and outline the process to reallocate those dollars to a specific client.
  • There is an opportunity for procurement to play a role. Procurement can have strong process management skills with strengths in risk mitigation. More procurement groups are now involved with media, recognizing that this is the largest marketing expenditure at many organizations.

As our industry continues to evolve, transparency issues between clients and agencies are likely to remain concerns. For example, programmatic buying — which has various intermediaries between the buyer and seller — appears to be an issue with emerging transparency concerns. Marketers would be wise to pay attention!

Thanks to The Economist for first publishing this viewpoint in their Lean Back marketing blog.

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