Two Simple Steps for Advertisers to Safeguard Their Ad Dollars

2 Apr

simpleisgoodThe current advertising ecosystem is fraught with risks as the number of intermediaries grows, media continues to fragment and new specialist agencies come into being. The recent Chapter 11 bankruptcy filing of adtech provider Sizmek serves as a subtle reminder of these risks. At the time of its bankruptcy filing, Sizmek owed 48 different creditors in excess of $40 million for digital media inventory.

To protect their investment from the impacts of this type of event, U.S. advertisers should consider implementing the following two contractual safeguards:

  1. Establish a “Principal-Agent” relationship with your agency partners.
  2. Incorporate a “Sequential Liability” clause into your agency agreements.

Incorporating Principal-Agent language into agreements reinforces the advertiser’s expectation that its agency is beholden to “always act in the best interest of the Client” when entering into agreements with its affiliates, subcontractors and or third-party vendors.

Further, establishing sequential liability as it relates to third-party vendor payments protects advertisers from the failure of any intermediary to its vendors, for which that intermediary has already been paid by the advertiser. Advertisers must also require their agencies to provide notification of any third-party vendor that will not recognize the sequential liability relationship that exists between the advertiser and the agency. By way of caution, media sellers (for instance) often incorporate “No Sequential Liability” or “Joint and Several Liability” clauses into their agreements or purchase orders with agencies which contradicts or disallows this important advertiser protection.

While properly screening agencies and third-party vendors can dramatically decrease an advertiser’s risks, the aforementioned contract clauses will offer an additional layer of protection.

 

 

 

 

Working Media or Tech Tax?

2 Apr

dreamstime_xs_40032570Fact: Digital media expenditures have grown to represent the lion share of advertisers’ media spend, with programmatic being the dominant form of digital media advertising. According to Zenith’s recently released Programmatic Marketing Forecast, “65% of all money spent on advertising in digital media in 2019 will be traded programmatically.”

As marketers continue to focus on increasing working media ratios, they must confront the rise in expenses ranging from agency campaign management fees, data fees and adtech fees associated with their digital media investment.

According to WARC, which provides guidance to many of the world’s largest advertisers, advertising agencies and publishers, in 2017 “over $30.0B of the $63.4B spent on programmatic advertising went to technology vendors.” Thus, it is understandable why so many refer to these fees as a “Tech Tax.”

Heritage or Baggage. What’s Your Perspective?

2 Apr

ddb-content-logo2-2019-1320x660Two different agency holding companies, with two different perspectives on the value of brand heritage and the role that heritage will play in their respective cultures moving forward.

In late 2018, WPP made the announcement that it was going to merge J. Walter Thompson, the world’s oldest agency brand with Wunderman. The new agency was christened Wunderman Thompson. This came on the heels of WPP’s decision to consolidate digital agency VML with Young & Rubicam renaming the combined entity VMLY&R.

Make no mistake, we are proponents of the holding companies moves to consolidate their brands to streamline operations, improve accountability and to simplify marketer access to agency services. That said, for the nostalgics among us, it was sad to witness the disappearance of two of the industry’s most venerable brands.

Thus, we were pleasantly surprised when Omnicom introduced its new corporate identity for DDB in March. The firm chose to leverage its heritage, adapting its original logo and paying homage to its three founders Ned Doyle, Mac Dane and Bill Bernbach by incorporating the agency’s original name, Doyle Dane Bernbach into its new identity.

A spokesperson for the agency stated, “As other agencies are commoditizing their agency names and turning away from their founding principles and visions, DDB is doubling down on the values that Doyle, Dane and Bernbach founded our agency on – creativity and humanity.”

In the words of Bill Bernbach: “Getting your product known isn’t the answer. Getting it wanted is the answer.”  

Don’t Confuse Data-Centricity with Customer-Centricity

2 Apr

online mediaAd agencies and consultancies alike continue to focus their acquisition and consolidation strategies on “data” firms as they build-out their future service offerings.

One only has to consider Publicis Groupe’s recent advances toward Epsilon or note Interpublic’s 2018 acquisition of Acxiom and Dentsu Aegis’ acquisition of Merkle in 2016.

No one questions the importance of data analytics and its role in key aspects of the marketing process from target audience segmentation and enhanced digital media performance to optimizing lifetime customer value. However, adopting a data-centric mindset that focuses on lower funnel conversion tactics to satisfy advertisers’ near-term revenue generation needs should not be mistaken for a customer-centric approach to addressing the problems facing advertisers today.

To the extent that data immersion yields intelligence and insights that help position brands in a relevant and compelling manner to make it easier for consumers to associate themselves with those brands that is good. But if the focus is to forgo brand building in the hope of driving results through the creation of on-demand experiences with the goal of driving conversion, the risk is that marketers may simply annoy consumers and not endear their brands to their target audience.

A fundamental question to be addressed is: “Why is it that in the age of “big data” customers are becoming less brand loyal?”

Perhaps the focus should be data analytics ability to generate insights that inform brand strategy, boost a brand’s emotional appeal, build its value proposition and build an emotional connection with the consumer.

To this end, it was with great interest that I noted one of the key findings from PwC’s recent Retail Survey; “Consumers want benefits, not surveillance

U.S. Advertising On the Rise In 2019

5 Mar

dreamstime_xs_29951176Good news for the U.S. advertising industry as revenues are expected  to grow 2% in the first quarter and 7.6% for 2019. This according to Standard Media Index (SMI).

Of note, SMI data is generated from raw invoices — actual dollar amounts spent on each ad buy — from five of the seven media agency holding groups and independent media agencies Read More

 

Lapses of Judgement Are Afflicting the Ad Industry

25 Feb

Hand icon with thumbs downPerusing the advertising industry trade publications over the last few weeks, I couldn’t help but notice a recurring theme… poor judgement. Whether temporary lapses or recurring behavior all parties including marketers, agencies, adtech suppliers and publishers seem to be afflicted by this malady of late.

Examples include, but are not limited to:

  • Client-side procurement personnel waylaying agency reviews by disregarding strategic selection criteria to focus on “cost improvement” as the driver in selecting agency partners.
  • Media agencies recommending unproven media products such as outstream auto-play video. Why? Aside from ads running through completion while out-of-view thus artificially inflating completion rates and skewing ad effectiveness measures, the notion of forcing a video on a user that has not opted-in could negatively impact that user’s experience and their feelings toward the brand.
  • Digital media sellers continuing to use sourced traffic from third parties to increase the number of visitors to their websites to meet audience delivery requirements.
  • YouTube failing, once again, to police its own platform policies and safeguard brand advertisers by allowing users to find and make unsavory comments on videos featuring young children.
  • The feedback from media buyers attending the Digiday Media Buying Summit regarding the aforementioned video publisher, believing that “yes” it is a brand-unsafe environment but it works, giving advertisers the views and conversions.
  • Social media influencers purchasing followers to increase their alleged reach, thus boosting their appeal to brand marketers.

The good news is that there are certainly good actors in the industry that are conducting themselves in an honorable manner, making sound decisions and taking proactive measures to address the aforementioned lapses in judgement. Examples include Unilever’s recent decision to ban the use of influencers who purchase followers and advertisers such as Nestle, McDonalds and Disney pulling their schedules from YouTube. 

That said, the apparent level of apathy toward brand-unsafe media environments, unproven media channels, inorganic followers and site visitors and an unhealthy focus on low price at the expense of quality is quite alarming.

One can only hope that these lapses in good judgement are temporary and that the industry takes heed and puts the appropriate safeguards in place to protect advertisers and their brands moving forward. In the words of Simon Bolivar, the 18th century Venezuelan military and political leader:

Judgement comes from experience, and experience comes from bad judgement.

 

 

 

 

Be Big Somewhere… 3 Keys to Media Planning Success

20 Feb

apertureIn the past, there were two overarching concepts that helped to form the basis of an advertiser’s successful media planning efforts.

Be Big Somewhere – Simply stated, this approach held that in order to break through the clutter and gain the attention of an advertiser’s target audience one had to focus their media in places and at times where they could achieve a significant share of voice vis-à-vis the competition.

Aperture – Core to this concept was the belief that each consumer had an ideal time and place when they could be reached by an advertiser’s message. Simultaneously, there were times when the consumer was either prepared to buy or was gathering information regarding a potential future purchase. The intersection of these two points was the “aperture” and was considered to be the ideal point to expose consumers to an advertiser’s message.

Simple proven concepts that had withstood the test of time… up to a point.

At a time marked by the hyper-fragmentation and proliferation of media where consumers have access to a plethora of choices for accessing information and entertainment, it is questionable whether or not these concepts still hold true.

While the dynamic of a rapidly evolving media marketplace creates exciting content access options for consumers, it poses challenges for advertisers and their agency partners. For example, while the average amount of time consumers spend with media is significant, averaging 721 minutes per day (Source: Statista, 2019) determining the right time and place for targeting an advertiser’s message is difficult at best:

Avg. Time Spent with Media by Consumers in Minutes per Day (2017)

  • TV                                            238
  • Mobile (non-voice)               197
  • Online (laptop, desktop)     123
  • Radio                                         86
  • Other Connected Devices      33
  • Print                                          24
  • Other                                         21

         Total Minutes Per Day         721

Further, over the course of a typical day, studies have shown that consumers are exposed to somewhere between 4,000 and 10,000 ad messages. This exposure leads to increased levels of consumer apathy and message burnout. Thus, achieving a meaningful share-of-voice to break through the clutter, and then to effectively reach the target audience and finding the right aperture in this environment, is certainly more complex.

Compounding these environmental factors, at least for advertisers working with multiple media agencies, is the added challenge related to the development of an integrated, holistic planning process to help optimize media allocation decisions across agencies, platforms, publishers, networks, etc.

Moving forward there are three evolving, but yet to be perfected, media planning tools whose furtherance would greatly aid advertisers and their media partners:

  1. Cross-channel, multi-touch attribution models – In order for advertisers to truly optimize their media investments, it is imperative that they be able to assess the role that each consumer touchpoint plays in achieving their goals.
  2. Cross-platform media measurement tools – Simply put, planners need tools (e.g. common metrics) that will allow them to better understand campaign reach by platform and overall, while being able to calibrate total content ratings, regardless of where consumers view the message.
  3. Artificial intelligence platforms – AI has the potential to greatly assist media planners (and buyers) in analyzing multiple data sets to aid in everything from audience segmentation to creating and comparing alternative strategies and leveraging data on a real-time basis to optimize buys while a campaign is underway.

As the industry continues to perfect these tools and agencies master their application, the ability to plan media seamlessly across platforms will be greatly enhanced. In the words of NHL Hall of Famer, Wayne Gretzky:

A good hockey player plays where the puck is. A great hockey player plays where the puck is going to be.”

 

 

Come On in, the Water’s All Right

17 Jan

jawsOver the last several weeks, there have been many pronouncements from ad tech providers, publishers and agencies that ad fraud and transparency concerns, which have beset advertisers for the last several years, have largely been addressed and that it is safe for advertisers to resume their programmatic digital real-time bidding (RBT) media activities.

What? Sounds a bit like the movie Jaws where a profit minded Mayor, Larry Vaughn attempts to convince Sheriff Brody to keep the beaches of Amity Island open for the 4th of July holiday, when tourists will flock to the Island, driving tourism revenues.

Granted, there have been positive developments including the efforts of the Trustworthy Accountability Group (TAG), the adoption of Ads.txt, the implementation of fraud solutions by ad tech providers and agencies and the involvement of the FBI, which has successfully busted a number of email, digital and cyber fraud operations over the course of the last year.

However, it would be a mistake for advertisers to let their guards down and assume that ad fraud has been solved and non-transparent practices have been cleaned up. Sadly, invalid, unviewable and non-human traffic continues to plague the industry and requires continued vigilance.

Honest, in-depth conversations between advertisers, their agencies and ad tech vendors should be ramped up before advertisers eschew the safety of private marketplaces (i.e. programmatic direct, premium, reserved, private auctions) to reallocate funds to RTB. Discussion topics should include, but not be limited to:

  • Determine whether or not the agency and ad tech vendors are using TAG Certified channels.
  • Assess if these same entities are screening programmatic domains to eliminate those that have not yet adopted Ads.txt from consideration.
  • Scrutinize the efficacy of the fraud and brand safety software solutions being deployed on the dvertiser’s behalf.
  • Confirm whether the advertiser is being provided a direct line of sight into the fees being charged for data, technology, and campaign management for both the demand and sell side of the ledger.
  • Verify whether the agency and ad tech verification vendors are examining 100% of the advertiser’s programmatic impressions for suspicious activity or whether they are instead sampling.
  • Check if agency and ad tech vendors are retaining log level files and if so, substantiate they will make them available to the advertiser or their auditor.
  • Assess how the agency and or ad tech vendors identify platform auction methodologies (i.e. second-price, first-price, header bidding) and adapt their bid strategies to optimize the advertiser’s investment.

We would counsel that it should be the results and learnings from these conversations, rather than self-serving proclamations, that the “water is all right” that influences an advertiser’s decision as to whether and when to jump back into the RTB marketplace. In the words of the Roman writer Publilius Syrus:

“It is a good thing to learn caution from the misfortunes of others.”

 

Advertising Delivery Models Are Evolving. How Will the Holding Companies Respond?

12 Jan

dreamstime_xs_127777381When agency holding companies were birthed, they did nothing that directly impacted client businesses. They were corporate entities that owned a number of smaller agencies and the attendant portfolios of real estate, trademarks, copyrights and licenses attached to those agencies. Their primary role was to create shareholder value through structural leveraging.

As time progressed, three things happened that form the basis of the challenge faced by agency holding companies today.

Firstly, aided by low barriers to entry, there was a proliferation in both the number of agencies and the types of functional specialist shops that came to be. In the early days there were “above the line” full-service agencies and “below the line” shops such as sales promotion, direct marketing and PR. Over time, specialists in diversity advertising, shopper marketing and digital media have come into vogue. Highly focused agencies continue to emerge today, as witnessed by the arrival of Amazon “specialist agencies” that assist marketers seeking to do business with or sell goods online via Amazon. Along the way, specialization led to fragmentation and full-service agencies fell by the wayside. Marketers in turn saw their agency networks expand in size as they added specialist firms to their rosters creating a range of agency stewardship and coordination challenges.

Secondly, the holding companies continued to acquire marketing services and advertising agencies. Part of their acquisition strategy involved bringing on specialist firms across a range of competencies to fill out their service offering. Another part of their strategy involved the acquisition of branded agency networks to consolidate activity within select clients (e.g. WPP’s acquisition of Ford agencies J. Walter Thompson, Ogilvy & Mather and Young & Rubicam) and to create walled silos that would allow them to handle competitive advertising accounts. Financial benefits were realized by consolidating functions and paring expenses in areas such as human resources, legal and finance while allowing the acquired agencies to operate independently in virtually every other area.

Finally, along the way the holding companies began to compete as agencies, creating stand-alone client service entities such as; Enfatico (Dell), Team One (Toyota), GTB (Ford) and We Are Unlimited (McDonald’s). The value proposition with these dedicated agency teams was to provide larger advertisers with scalable, seamless solutions served up by the most talented personnel from across the holding company’s portfolio of agency brands. While the premise was certainly compelling, the holding company model did not readily lend itself to a blended workforce concept and often suffered from the lack of centralized business platforms.

Fast forward to 2019 and advertiser preferences remain unchanged. Advertisers desire breakthrough, transformational business solutions served up on an integrated basis and of course, they want them faster, better and cheaper.

In their search for a better “mousetrap” advertisers have begun to take certain aspects of their advertising in-house and or have engaged non-traditional partners including management and technology consulting firms to augment their traditional agency rosters. Of note, the consulting firms, represented by global monolithic brands, blended workforces, common processes and centralized business platforms have made significant inroads with CMOs. This has raised speculation among many industry pundits with regard to whether or not the consulting firms would supplant advertising agencies. Fueling the speculation has been the management consulting firms’ pursuit of agency acquisitions to round out their marketing/ advertising service offerings, it will be interesting to see how well they fair integrating those acquired firms into their organizations both structurally and culturally.

Many in the industry are waiting for the revelation of a new “agency model” that will emerge to magically address advertiser desires and resolve agency holding company challenges. It is our belief that these pundits will likely be waiting for some time.

Advertisers, for their part, will continue to seek out and retain responsive, agile marketing partners that can provide breakthrough, scalable business enhancing solutions. While the idea of an integrated, end-to-end provider is intriguing, it is likely not feasible. Rather, assembling a team of specialists, albeit narrower marketing agency networks, with the advertiser serving as strategist and integrator across the “marketing ecosystem” as Martin Sorrell, Chairman of S4 Capital refers to it is the most likely solution.

As for agency holding companies, we believe that Arthur Sadoun, Chairman of Publicis Groupe got it right when he stated that “the old holding company model is dead” in April of 2018. Advertisers will not embrace a one-stop solution from any of the holding companies. Thus, the holding companies will likely continue their recent focus on right-sizing their networks through the consolidation of both brands and functions and the divestiture of redundant and non-core entities. After all, how many agencies that place or distribute digital media or in-house studios does a holding company need? There may also be a subtle shift from a focus on cost reductions to enhancing the holding company’s ability to cost efficiently scale operations. This could include an expansion of the old “shared services” model, looking beyond HR, Finance and Legal to create centers of excellence around functions such as Data Sciences, Technology, Media Procurement and Production to provide clients across their network with faster, better and cheaper solutions in these areas.

While many lament the decline of the agency holding company, other than the world’s top advertisers, most organizations hire agency brands. While some of the agencies they hire may be owned by the same holding company, more often they are not. Thus the challenge of finding “integrated” solutions for the development of relevant, quick, agile and engaging solutions has been the purview of marketers… at least since the days when the full-service agency model was the standard. As such, the evolution of the advertising delivery model will more than likely be driven by advertisers and less so by agency holding companies.

 

 

 

2018 | Articles That Piqued Our Readers Interest

31 Dec

WTop 5ith 2018 now in our rearview mirror and all of our attention focused on the coming year, we thought that you might be interested in learning what our “Top 5” blog posts were over the past twelve months, according to our readers.

While familiar issues such as; trust, transparency and brand safety continued to be at the fore of advertisers’ attention, new topics including programmatic audio, AI-powered personalization and federal privacy regulation crept into our field of view. Click below to access 2018’s top posts.

  1. 3 Keys to Strengthening Client-Agency Relationships
  2. 4 Keys for Optimizing Direct Labor Based Remuneration Systems
  3. Agency Compensation: The More for Less Trap
  4. Advertisers: What Does the DOJ Know About the Ad Industry That You Don’t?
  5. Will Programmatic Ever Address Advertiser Concerns?
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