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By Nick Manning
Media Marketing Compliance (MMC) recently hosted a webinar chaired by Nick Manning on the subject of Media Transparency and whether it is improving in the light of recent market revelations, especially in the ‘Programmatic’ market.
Media Marketing Compliance (MMC) recently hosted a webinar on the subject of Media Transparency and whether it is improving in the light of recent market revelations, especially in the ‘Programmatic’ (ie. automated) market.
We examined recent reports into market practices and asked our expert panellists to comment on whether progress is being made.
Speaking as a Marketing and Media specialist, Gerry D’Angelo proposed new ways to achieve transparency; Tina Fegent addressed the ways that Procurement can contribute to better processes; Nick Swimer spoke of the legal and contractual ways to get better visibility; and Stephen Broderick showed how to address the latest ways to achieve strong contractual compliance.
Our distinguished panel all saw some flickers of light, but the consensus was that Media Transparency remains one of the most important needs for advertisers, and much more can and should be done.
While the panel provided some good guidance on the way ahead (more on this below), it is worth reiterating why this subject should remain in the spotlight.
Brand-owners need media transparency in order to make wellinformed budget allocations and the right channel choices.
They also need transparency to ensure that their media is bought as effectively and efficiently as possible, with the minimum of waste.
Transparency provides visibility into where ads go, who is exposed to them and what the outcomes are. It identifies where ads are placed, whether they are seen or heard (or both) and what the audience was, real or manufactured.
It is important to ensure that their commercial partners are working openly in the interests of the brand-owner, not themselves. A lack of transparency creates conflicts of interest in decision-making and often leads to the advertiser’s commercial partners earning revenue that they should not.
It is needed to provide the kind of business accountability that Procurement personnel deliver for their business, such as adherence to contracts and value of services rendered.
There is nothing too controversial about that, is there? It’s how professional business should work.
However, this is very far from the reality of today’s advertising industry.
Media transparency simply does not exist. Some channels are better than others, some media agencies provide it more than others, some supply-chains also do. But it is partial at best.
This means that the reasons that make it important are not fulfilled and billions of dollars in ad spend are either untracked, untrackable or wasted. For most advertisers it is simply impossible to know where their money goes and what they get for it.
Yet most advertisers continue to spend blindly.
Sadly, this is nothing new and the movement to achieve media transparency for advertisers has made little progress, despite several industry-level studies and acres of trade press and conference discussion over the last dozen or so years. The world’s biggest brand-owners, such as Procter and Gamble, have long called for it but for most advertisers little or no progress has been made.
Meanwhile, not only has the volume of media grown substantially, it has increased especially in the least transparent of trading mechanisms, automated (so-called ‘programmatic’), auction-based transactions.
Programmatic is now the dominant form of media trading in all digital media, including Connected TV, Digital Out-of-Home, Social Media and Gaming.
Media is at its least transparent now and with many old and new options available (with TikTok being the biggest newbie), there has never been a greater need for advertisers to make their ad spend more effective and efficient.
So it’s dark out there but is there any light at the end of the tunnel? Is progress being made towards a better, more open and trackable market?
The first point to make is that we know exactly why the lack of transparency exists and what is preventing it from improving. Study after study describes the interwoven commercial interests that create the opacity, involving media agencies, adtech companies, broadcasters and publishers.
It is a complex eco-system but it is not hard to understand. It is, however, hard to penetrate given the deep business and contractually entwined relationships that support the entire media structure. The solution lies in deconstructing those relationships and rewiring the system to remove the areas where data and money cannot be tracked, measured and quantified.
The panel at the MMC webinar examined the findings of recent new studies that have shone a spotlight on different corners of the media eco-system, and identified some of the main areas where knotty problems exist.
The main study was from the US Association of National Advertisers (ANA) into the Programmatic supply-chain. This was the first half of the study, with the second due to be published later in October.
Also arising from the ANA’s work was a companion examination by Kroll, who interviewed several anonymous senior industry insiders to get a perspective from the people behind the machines that enable automated media trading.
Also of high interest is the new ANA/Reed Smith Master Media Services Template (3.0) that provides an extensive and new contractual framework for advertisers to select from.
This year also saw two reports by Adalytics into Google’s sales practices that infringe their normal protocols for video advertising on YouTube, partner websites and children’s channels.
Another helpful document comes from WARC, providing a practical framework for addressing many of the potential pitfalls of the programmatic trading market.
A summary of the findings of these reports can be found in the recording of the webinar. The overall picture that emerges, unsurprisingly, is one of a market that continues to elude advertisers’ attempts to master it.
Our panel of experts provided important advice on the way ahead.
Gerry D’Angelo, who recently retired as Vice President Global Media at Procter & Gamble, identified the complexities of the media ecosystem and proposed practices from other business supplychains, such as risk management and value accrual. Gerry also stressed the need for more public exposure of bad practices and better management by advertisers of the whole supply-chain.
Tina Fegent, an independent global Marketing Procurement expert, emphasised the need for more robust stakeholder collaboration within advertisers, including the Finance function.
Fegent advocated the need for Media Transparency to be baked into pitching processes and contract negotiations in advance of strategy and execution.
Nick Swimer, Partner at Reed Smith and one of the authors of the new ANA Media Services Template, addressed some of the market practices that the recent document aims to address, and stressed the need to customise the templates specifically around each advertiser’s needs, with constant revisions as the market changes.
Stephen Broderick, Senior Partner at MMC, commented on recent trends observed in the uptake of compliance auditing of media contracts and the watch-outs that advertisers need to ensure enhanced adherence.
The panel offered some specific actions that could improve Media Transparency for advertisers:
This subject will be discussed further at another webinar from MMC on November 1st with the focus on the Americas and an analysis of the results of the second phase of the ANA Programmatic study.
The stellar panel comprises Tracy Avelar, Global Head of Marketing Sourcing for Facebook; Keri Bruce, partner at ReedSmith; Bill Duggan, Group Executive Vice-president at the ANA and Fiona Foy, a Managing Partner at Media Marketing Compliance.