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Assessing the Potential for Transitioning Work In-House

24 Jun

Ideas idea success growth creativity creative multi ethnic group of peopleAn increasing number of marketers are transitioning portions of their advertising activities from their external agency partners to in-house teams. A survey conducted by the Association of National Advertisers (ANA) in the summer of 2018 revealed the following:

  • 78% of survey respondents indicated that they had an in-house operation of some sort
  • This is up 58% from 2013 and 42% from 2008
  • 90% of marketers with in-house operations have increased their in-house team workloads
  • 70% of marketers have shifted work from external agencies to in-house teams in the last 3 years

Although the ANA survey indicates that some in-house agencies are increasingly handling brand strategy and creative ideation work, most marketers that we serve continue to rely on external creative agencies for this type of work and are initially focusing their in-house efforts on a range of specialty services. This approach can minimize risk and cost, while putting the essential building blocks in place for eventually launching deeper into in-house agency commitments, if desired.

Endeavoring to build out a full-service in-house creative agency is certainly achievable and there are a number of successes that one can point to. Consider Innocean Worldwide which originally began as the in-house agency for Hyundai-Kia and has gone on to acquire clients outside of the Hyundai Motor Company. Innocean’s work has won global recognition for its creative work that includes a Silver at Cannes and an ADFEST Grand Prix in 2019. As well, Innocean has committed to growing its brand and weight in the industry by acquiring noted independent creative agency David & Goliath in late 2017.

However, building out a full-service in-house agency takes time and requires an investment in evolving the culture of the operation, attracting top-notch talent, developing the appropriate processes, and positioning itself to be successful in winning internal client confidence and ultimately the creative development work.

The effort associated with attracting and retaining top-quality creative personnel to ply their wares at an in-house agency can be significant. Providing end-to-end creative services requires an increase in headcount and drives up operational fixed costs. Further, the timeline required to demonstrate in-house agency abilities and to consistently produce fresh ideas and deliver quality work is uncertain. This is particularly so if there isn’t a corporate mandate for brand marketers to utilize the in-house services. Thus, management must build-in enough time and budget to allow for relationships to take hold between the in-house team and the brand management teams, and for the in-house team to “learn” how to successfully compete for and win creative assignments.

Thus, many organizations focus initial in-house efforts on areas where the operations can clearly and immediately add value. Such services may include content curation and creation, digital, print and internal video production and the development of sales promotion and collateral material. Consolidating tasks such as these with an in-house team can improve a marketer’s agility by reducing project turn-around times and costs while improving the caliber of the output.

Many in-house operations begin as shared-services providers, subsidized by the organization and often with mandates for brand marketers to use their specialized services. Which is not a bad way to launch an in-house agency. Over time, some operations may adopt a charge-back model, where they must compete with external resources to win projects from their brand marketing peers.

Each model brings with it certain challenges. The charge-back model, with no corporate mandate for use, raises risk for the in-house team who must generate revenue to cover internal staffing, resource and real-estate costs. If the team cannot win work, their very existence may be jeopardized. And during competition for work, the team must address internal client perceptions that the services they provide will be less expensive than an external creative agency. On the other hand, if pricing is comparable to an external resource, brand marketers may question the risk / reward of transitioning work away from an established external specialist creative shop and bringing it in-house.  Additionally, end-user’s want to feel that utilizing their in-house agency “makes their life easier.”

Regardless of the model employed or the scope of services offered, it is imperative to embrace a strong project-management orientation with a comprehensive workflow management toolkit. The need to evaluate potential projects, provide cost and time estimates, log projects, manage projects and secure sign-offs requires a disciplined in-house project management function.

An important part of generating and demonstrating efficiency gains for the organization is the ability to track time-on-task, project gestation and completion rates, rework levels and the like… all of which require a commitment to recording and tracking in-house activities and utilization rates. Such information will also inform management on how and when to expand or contract staff levels and when to tap external resources to augment in-house skill sets.

The need for internal advertising support is real and makes a great deal of sense regardless of the breadth of services an organization seeks to source from an in-house operation. However, the application of the model requires a disciplined pragmatic approach to both set the breadth of service to be offered the team and to efficiently and effectively handle the anticipated volume of work.

 

 

 

 

 

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.

 

 

 

Agencies vs. Consultants: What Does the Future Hold for Marketers?

24 Nov

pro vs conHave you formed an opinion yet on the battle between traditional advertising agencies and management consulting firms for marketing and advertising supremacy?

Many have, citing profound differences between these two types of professional services providers. The basis for the beliefs are centered on a range of characteristics attributed to each type of firm, including; company culture, strategic focus, business processes, talent pools, breadth of capabilities and ability to provide integrated solutions.

The question to be asked, as management consultants continue to push into ad agency territory (largely through acquisition) is; “Are the differences between these entities meaningful?” Or will the blending of these two types of firms ultimately result in a level playing field among the large agency holding companies and international consultancies?

Most pundits suggest that the differences are very real, with consultants largely grounded in a strategic focus on how to boost a company’s performance, and agency services centered on building brands by leveraging traditional media channels and touchpoints. Clearly both perspectives are valuable in their own right. Along with these differences, other complicating factors are at play that will determine the ultimate outcome.

  1. Marketers seem to be increasingly focused on improving in-market performance, which is becoming the principal means of validating the efficacy of their advertising programs. Metrics such as awareness, consideration and brand purchase intent are all well-and-good, but at the end of the day organizations are more interested in topline growth, market share expansion and bottom-line profits.
  2. There have been profound shifts in consumer purchase behavior and questions raised about the validity of the traditional purchase funnel used by marketers to map a consumer’s progression from awareness to action. In today’s digital-centric world of transacting business the path to purchase is not as linear as it once was.
  3. Research among younger shoppers suggests that marketers can no longer pre-suppose that brands matter. Certainly not to the extent that they once did. In an industry where it is projected that companies will spend in excess of $1.0 trillion on marketing services in 2017 (source: GroupM, 2016 “Global Ad Expenditures Forecast”) this is quite alarming. According to Havas Worldwide’s 2015 annual index of “Meaningful Brands” it was determined that “only 5% of brands would truly be missed by consumers U.S. consumers.” Driving this trend has been the emergence of the 75 million plus U.S. millennial target segment, whose trust in brands has been eroded as have their perceptions of genuineness and brand authenticity.

These trends may point to a larger shift, where consumer purchase behavior is more readily shaped by relationships, peer input and social influences rather than by branding. Thus the ad industry’s model of pushing brand messaging through a variety of media channels as a way of creating awareness and consideration in the hope of driving purchase intent may not yield the results it once did. It is likely that this traditional approach will be supplanted by social engagement and social selling as consumers take control of the pre-purchase learning and competitive evaluation portion of the purchase decision making process.

This could allow management consultancies to curry favor among marketers under pressure to drive performance in the short-term. The consultancies ability to offer integrated end-to-end solutions including; organizational design, transformational strategy development, user experience design, data analytics, technology support and increasingly branding and marketing expertise is considered to be quite compelling to many Chief Marketing Officers.

With so much at stake, it is certain that the agency holding companies and global consulting organizations will continue to invest in transforming their businesses to better serve marketers seeking to evolve their approach to achieving in-market success. In the words of Jeff Bezos, Founder of Amazon:

“We expect all our businesses to have a positive impact on our top and bottom lines, Profitability is very important to us or we wouldn’t be in this business.”

The Ad Industry is Metamorphosing

30 Jun

dreamstime_xs_83082522It was the best of times; it was the worst of times…” Most of us are familiar with the opening line from Charles Dickens in his epic work A Tale of Two Cities. Many marketers may even consider it an apt description of both the current state of the advertising industry and the challenges that they face in sustaining brand relevance and driving growth.

Phoenix risingSo, who will marketers count on to assist them with the tasks of deepening brand engagement with core target segments, revitalizing sales and profits in a low-growth environment and in differentiating their brands for competitive advantage?

Over the course of the last few years, many have opined on the viability of the ad agency model and what it portends for advertiser/ agency relationships going forward. And with good reason. Concerns cited include threats from non-traditional competitors such as management consulting and technology firms encroaching on their turf, talent recruitment and retention challenges and margin compression due to downward pressure on fees and expanded scopes of services.

It may be as some predict that management consulting firms will leverage their capabilities in the area of strategy and integration to pirate work from ad agencies and that ad-tech providers will enable marketers to take certain tasks in-house. The question remains, how will marketers adjust to this dynamic and the evolution of their agency networks to potentially include consulting, data and ad-tech firms? There are already very real challenges related to agency stewardship today due to under-resourced client marketing staffs.

The aforementioned challenges, combined with the rate of digitization and the emerging role of artificial intelligence occurring within the ad industry, certainly pose challenges for advertising agencies and could serve to lessen their stranglehold on the marketing and advertising sector. In a recent McKinsey article entitled; “The Global Forces Inspiring a New Narrative of Progress” the authors note that “disruption is accelerating.” They opine that this dynamic is raising serious concerns for many organizations relating to the question, “How long can their traditional sources of competitive advantage survive in the face of technological shifts?”

That said, in spite of these risk factors and other marketplace developments, ad agencies are doing just fine:

  • Agency holding companies have continued their aggressive acquisition drives, supporting both their horizontal and vertical integration strategies. While overall M&A activity is down from 2016 levels, WPP and Dentsu have consummated twenty acquisitions with a combined value of $700 million through the first 4 months of 2017. (Source: R3’s “State of Agency M&A report” for January – April, 2017).
  • While down from 2016’s 5.7% growth rate, global ad spending is projected to grow 3.6% in 2017 (Source: Magna Global, June, 2017). Of note, this is higher than the International Monetary Fund’s projected increase for global GDP growth.
  • Even though 1Q17 Advertising Industry gross margins fell to 44.15%, the industry itself is healthy. For instance, within the services sector, the Advertising Industry achieved the highest gross margins, net margins, EBITDA margins and pre-tax margins for the quarter (Source: CSIMarket.com).
  • Some 86% of mid-sized ad agencies are confident that this year will be better than last in terms of profitable growth (Source: Society of Digital Agencies (SoDA) survey).

Importantly, since the demise of the “good ole days” of full-service agencies and the fifteen-percent commission remuneration model, agencies have demonstrated a unique ability to not only keep up with industry changes, but to take the lead from both a thought leadership and innovation perspective. They have been able to scale, attracting more clients and deeper talent pools, they have invested in emerging technologies to deal with increasingly complicated, data driven processes and to pioneer the use of algorithms and artificial intelligence to efficiently execute deliverables ranging from digital media investment to creative adaptations… all while dealing with evolving client expectations.

Further, it bears noting that the publicly traded holding companies; WPP, Omnicom Group, Publicis Groupe, Interpublic Group of Cos. and Dentsu, had combined estimated worldwide 2016 revenue levels of $60.7 billion (Source: Advertising Age, June 2017). When one considers the pre-dominance of the estimated billing process and agency remuneration schema that includes direct labor and overhead cost reimbursement plus guaranteed profit margins of 14% to 17% or more, one must also respect the financial clout that these publicly traded entities wield.

Is there a need for near-term belt tightening to offset softer 2017 ad spending levels? Yes. Do the holding companies need to consolidate agency brands and realign capabilities to boost the efficacy of their service delivery models and generate much needed efficiencies? Yes. Will agencies need to improve their talent recruitment and retention practices, across a diverse range of specialties? Yes. But no business is immune from these challenges, including management consultants, ad-tech platforms and publishers.

The big question the industry in general and marketers will need to assess is related to whether these players will be able to boldly transform their current business models, repositioning their firms to deliver integrated, multi-specialist services in a nimble, cost efficient, on-demand manner.

Broadly speaking, all participants are facing challenges as the ad industry undergoes its current metamorphoses. We believe that it is too early to predict winners and losers or to suggest that marketers adapt an attitude of empathy toward any of their marketing supply chain partners. After all, it is their marketing spend that has built this sector into a $457.4 billion global machine in 2017 (Source: Statista, 2017). And they must vigilantly safeguard and optimize that investment.

Below is one of the closing lines from A Tale of Two Cities, one that many may not be as familiar with:

“It is a far, far better thing that I do, than I have ever done…”

With this parting thought, Dickens’ suggests that the main character in his novel and the city of France will be resurrected, rising above their present strife and “made illustrious.”

Here’s hoping that the ad industry achieves similar transformative success.

 

 

Funding Accountability Initiatives

26 Aug

Accountability FinalThe desire on the part of many advertisers to extend their organization’s accountability initiative to marketing is high. This is due to the fact that marketing is both one of the largest indirect expense categories within an organization and, for those that believe in its ability to drive strategic outcomes, critical in driving brand value and demand generation.

One of the key challenges for Internal Audit and Procurement professionals in implementing accountability programs is that they typically do not have a budget to fund the projects. Rather, they are reliant on their peers in Marketing to “buy in” to the concept and to underwrite the investment associated with analyzing contract compliance, financial management and in-market performance across their agency networks. This dynamic can create a loggerhead that delays or prevents corporate scrutiny into marketing and advertising spending and its resulting business impact.

The irony is that relative to the millions of dollars invested in marketing, the cost of implementing an accountability program for this corporate function is much less than one-percent of total spend. As we know, applying the skills and capabilities of audit and procurement teams and outside consultants typically results in improved controls that mitigate financial and legal risks to the organization. Further, these efforts often uncover historical errors and overbillings, and always generate future savings and improved marketing return-on-investment opportunities that more than offset the cost of the program.

It has always been a mystery as to why more advertisers simply don’t formalize and legislate the marketing accountability program and establish the requisite budget to be administered by the CFO / Finance organization. A minority of our clients operate in this manner, but clearly a “win, win” situation is created where internal audit and procurement provide their support and apply their resources pro-actively and marketing doesn’t feel as though funding is coming at the expense of critical business building programs within their budgets.

From our perspective, the source of funding for extending a corporate accountability initiative to marketing is the last hurdle. The reason is that we have seen marketing’s appreciation for accountability support grow along with their respect for the audit and procurement functions and a recognition that such programs can improve the efficiency and efficacy of the organization’s marketing spend.

The advertising industry is a complex; rapidly changing, technology-driven sector fraught with opacity challenges and risks such as digital media fraud and non-transparent revenue practices employed by agencies, ad tech providers, ad exchanges and media sellers. In light of these dynamics, organizations truly understand the benefit of monitoring the disposition of their marketing investment and the performance of their advertising agencies and third-party vendors.

It has been over 140 years since Philadelphia merchant John Wanamaker offered the following perspective on his ad spend:

Half the money I spend on advertising is wasted; the trouble is, I don’t know which half.”

Yet, with the passage of time it would be difficult for the industry to suggest that much has changed with regard to a marketers ability to accurately assess the efficacy of their advertising spend.

There is no time like the present to proactively develop; implement and fund transformative accountability programs that can optimize planned business outcomes, while safeguarding marketing spend at every level of the advertising investment cycle.

Interested in learning more about marketing accountability programs? Contact Cliff Campeau, Principal at Advertising Audit & Risk Management| AARM at ccampeau@aarmusa.com for a complimentary consultation on the topic.

Two Words That Represent Accountability’s Biggest Obstacle; “Who’s Budget?”

24 Feb

Accountability FinalMany organizations want to implement an accountability program. Virtually all Internal Audit directors would like to extend that accountability initiative across the enterprise and most certainly want to provide coverage for categories with a significant spend, such as marketing.

Yet, in spite of the good intentions, U.S. companies have been slow to embrace independent compliance and performance auditing of their marketing supply chain partners. Ironically, the reason emanates from the answer to a very simple question, “Which departmental budget will be tapped to fund the initiative?” More often than not the answer to that question, in the context of a marketing and advertising spending review, is “Marketing.”

Given this dynamic, it is often a challenge for companies to implement an “unbudgeted” audit project once the fiscal year planning process has been completed, even if results dwarf its cost. Additionally, while many CMO’s have come to value the feedback and insights provided from the independent testing of supplier contract compliance and performance, there are others that still do not embrace audit or accountability initiatives. As a result, unless mandated by the C-Suite, independent accountability testing may never make its way into the budget, causing a huge assurance gap governing that company’s multi-million marketing investment.

There is good news however for procurement, finance and audit executives seeking to remove these obstacles and manage associated risks. Namely, that in addition to the opportunity for process improvements, performance monitoring, contract language enhancements and better controls, these engagements yield hard dollar returns resulting from various financial true-ups and future savings opportunities; far exceeding the fees necessary to conduct the review.

Positive financial returns aside, the costs associated with an audit of an advertiser’s agency network partners is miniscule when compared to the tens of millions or hundreds of millions of dollars being expended in this area.

Perhaps best of all, independent assessments of marketing agency compliance and third-party vendor billings sets a tone of the desired financial stewardship and accountability behavior that the client would like to see employed across its marketing supplier base. In turn, the very act of performing an independent audit, provides a powerful incentive for an agency to diligently self-police itself by tightly adhering to the processes and guidelines agreed to and memorialized in the Client/ Agency Master Services Agreement. In the words of the noted English author and speaker, Simon Sinek:

Actions speak louder than words. All companies say they care, right? But few actually exercise that care.

Interested in learning more about fielding a marketing agency network accountability initiative at your company? Contact Cliff Campeau, Principal at AARM | Advertising Audit & Risk Management at ccampeau@aarmusa.com to for a complimentary consultation on the topic today.

 

 

 

Is Agency Ownership of Audience Measurement Providers a Good Idea?

13 Feb

transparencyRecently, WPP indicated that they were planning to take a large equity stake in comScore, one of the world’s largest online campaign measurement providers. This is in addition to WPP’s recent investment in Rentrak, a television audience measurement service, an organization in which WPP is now the largest institutional shareowner.

With WPP’s continued push into the campaign measurement space, advertisers may begin to question the consequences of an agency holding company’s ownership of audience delivery measurement resources. After all, these campaign measurement service providers gather and analyze data and publish ratings which are utilized to assess the efficacy of the agency’s media purchasing efforts on the advertiser’s behalf.

More broadly, based upon the business activities in which the agency holding companies now routinely engage in, one might legitimately question whether or not the designation of “agent” is even an apt description of the role which advertising firms play in support of their clients. Activities such as media arbitrage or reselling if one prefers, joint media and technology ownership deals with publishers, participation in AVB or volume rebate programs offered by media owners to agency holding companies tied to transactions entered into on behalf of their clients, all raise a legitimate question about “Whose” interests agencies are beholden to.

What recourse do advertisers have? After all, there are often distinct advantages to utilizing large agency holding company brands. Independent agencies, which while unencumbered by questions regarding their fiduciary focus, sometimes lack the scale or depth of resources required to perform in certain situations. Enlightened protectionism in the 21st century requires advertisers to aggressively push for enhanced transparency, improved controls and the unimpeachable right to audit their agency’s contract compliance and financial management performance. In the oft quoted words of President Ronald Reagan; “Trust, but verify.”

As a sound first step, it is essential for advertisers to understand their agency partners’ affiliate relationships. Secondly, it is imperative for advertisers to fashion contract language which requires their agencies to provide full disclosure when an agency affiliate is being utilized on their behalf, how that affiliate is compensated and by whom and whether or not the rates charged by that affiliate are competitive with comparable providers in the market. Whether in the context of ad serving, programmatic buying, trading desk operations or campaign measurement, an advertiser has a right to know when their agency has engaged an affiliate firm. This affords client stakeholders the opportunity to raise any questions or concerns they may have regarding such a selection and its impact on the agency’s objectivity. 

Once affiliate firms have been identified, tracking what percentage of an advertiser’s budget is being spent collectively at the agency holding company level can prove enlightening. More importantly, understanding the value of their account to the holding company based upon total revenues enhances an advertiser’s negotiating position when considering agency remuneration options going forward. 

As the ad industry has grown in size, generating approximately $521.6 billion in revenue in 2014 (source: MAGNA GLOBAL), it has also grown in complexity which is due in large to the rate and rapidity of technological change. Thus, it comes as no surprise that relationships among industry stakeholders have evolved, becoming more complex in their own right. The industry has begun to come to terms with the plurality of such relationships where partners may simultaneously be competitors or buyer agents may also function as sellers. However, “coming to terms” doesn’t mean blind acceptance. Rather it requires a new level of discourse and enhanced controls to protect advertisers and their investment.

Interested in learning more about agency network “affiliate management?” Contact Cliff Campeau, Principal at Advertising Audit & Risk Management, LLC at ccampeau@aarmusa.com for a complimentary consultation on the topic.  

 

What is the Key to Client-Agency Success?

2 Dec

client-agency relationship successCollaboration? Two-way communication? Transparency? Respect?  Certainly.  But these positive relationship traits are present in many client-agency relationships that fail to withstand the test of time. Thus there must be another reason that the average tenure once measured at 7.2 years in 1984 and 5.3 years in 1997 and pegged by many at less than 3.0 years today continues to wane. 

The factors often cited for this decline include; client-side marketing turnover, shortened tenures of CEOs and CMOs, agency leadership turnover and clients outgrowing an agency’s capabilities to support their marketing needs.  There is no question that these events can play a contributory role in changing the dynamics of an advertiser’s relationship with its agencies.  However, these are also factors which have been effectively dealt with by advertisers and their agency partners enjoying long-term relationships.

Think about the typical start to a client-agency relationship:

  1. Review conducted
  2. Agency selected
  3. Contract negotiated
  4. Work commences
  5. Both parties settle in to the day-to-day pattern of creating and distributing ad messaging

Most experienced marketers and agency executives have seen this routine repeat itself time and time again.  The common denominator is that events progress from a competitive review to initial campaign development in short-order at the expense of a deliberate, considered on-boarding process.  Out with the “old” partner and in the “new” with virtually no transition overlap or time for the new agency to truly get up to speed on a client’s business.

So what is the missing link?  Most advertisers have not embraced the discipline of supplier relationship management (SRM).  Too often, advertisers invest few if any resources in strategically planning for and managing the interactions with each of their agency partners or in clearly identifying the roles and responsibilities of each agency in their marketing services vendor network.  

Letters of agreement, statements of work, agency staffing plans and remuneration agreements are necessary relationship management tools which provide guidance to both advertisers and agencies in the area of contractual expectations, controls and reporting.  However, few would consider these items as a replacement for sound operational planning that clearly lays out a governance framework, the tenets of organizational interactions, expected behaviors, ground rules for collaboration and a definition of what constitutes success in the context of the relationship and in-market performance. 

When one considers the size of an organization’s marketing budget and the importance of that investment in the areas of demand generation, brand building and share accretion it is curious that the industry hasn’t more readily adopted SRM. 

Changing agencies is costly and can be fraught with risks to an advertiser’s market position and financial performance.  Thus it stands to reason that an organization should be prepared to make the requisite investment in its marketing supply chain to develop solid, long-term agency relationships predicated on the effective and efficient stewardship of their marketing spend to attain superior results. 

Given the potential benefits of SRM to marketing agencies, it is a wonder that they are not leading the charge on this front as a means of extending their tenure and enhancing their positions as strategic contributors to their clients’ business.  Regardless, the benefits to stakeholders on both sides of the client-agency relationship are to numerous and meaningful to ignore. 

So, if you’re contemplating a change in agencies, use the event as a starting point for the application of SRM to your organization’s agency network.  In so doing you just may reap the benefits of the words intoned by Henry Ford;

“Coming together is a beginning.  Keeping together is progress.  Working together is success.” 

 

 

 

 

Contract Compliance Matters

3 Jun

contract compliance auditingAs an agency contract compliance auditor too often we see client-agency agreements that are one-sided, lack the requisite terms and conditions and generally fail to provide the advertiser with the controls, reporting and transparency necessary to effectively monitor their advertising investment.  Surprisingly, in many instances the agreements are not even executed by both parties. 

Ironically, when we do come across well written agreements which contain the detail, clarity and exhibits required for both the client and agency to protect their legal and financial interests and to promote a health relationship it is rare that those rights and controls are enforced.  There are many reasons for this oversight, none of which are valid and each can create risks for the advertiser. 

In our experience, the chief barrier for advertisers in negotiating a letter-of-agreement (LOA) that integrates the language, terms and conditions that ultimately protect their interests is that an advertiser’s in-house counsel and or procurement team often does not have deep experience in or knowledge of the marketing services space and industry “Best Practices.” 

On the contract compliance front, once an LOA has been executed it is not atypical for that agreement to find its way to an obscure “Legal” file in “someone’s” office without the instrument having been properly socialized with representatives from Marketing, Finance and Internal Audit.  Layer in employee turnover, transfers and office moves and the LOA and its relationship governance framework are often lost and or forgotten about.  As a result, the reporting, controls and behaviors required as part of the LOA go unmonitored and, in the worst case, aren’t complied with. 

A structured marketing services agency contract compliance program can assist clients in addressing these issues, mitigating the potential risks to their organizations and in optimizing the performance of their agency networks.  The benefits of such a program to an advertiser begin with the contract formulation stage of engaging an agency partner and can encompass a range of activities including: 

  1. Implementation of contract and agency remuneration system “Best Practices” 
  2. Standardization of a Marketing Services agency LOA template
  3. Transparency enhancing control, reporting and reconciliation clauses in LOA
  4. Periodic independent agency contract compliance audits
  5. Ongoing contract compliance monitoring and performance assessments
  6. Financial reconciliations (i.e. agency fee, agency billing, 3rd party vendor billing)
  7. Agency transition audit support

Given the number of agencies which often comprise an advertiser’s marketing services supplier network, and the level of the marketing investment being managed by those agencies, “contract compliance” should be considered an essential element of an advertiser’s strategic relationship management effort. 

“Knowledge is the true organ of sight, not the eyes.” ~ Panchatantra 

Timely, thorough contract compliance and performance monitoring is an excellent means of incenting positive behavior both within an advertiser’s organization and across its agency partners.  The net result can be stronger client-agency relationships built on a foundation of trust and aligned expectations.  In turn, an engaged and motivated supplier network can help client organizations increase their return-on-marketing-investment.     

Do you know where your agency LOA’s are?  If you would like to discuss the potential benefits of agency contract compliance, feel free to contact Cliff Campeau, Principal of Advertising Audit & Risk Management at ccampeau@aarmusa.com for a complimentary consultation.

Take Stock of Your Marketing Supplier Network

26 Apr

marketing agency networkWhether viewed in the context of the marketing dollars that flow through an advertiser’s marketing services agencies or their respective roles in building an organization’s brands and driving revenue, a marketing supplier network is a valuable corporate asset.  So how much do you know about the agencies which comprise that network?

Boosting supplier visibility within the C-suite of an organization can yield significant strategic and economic benefits.  The process begins with taking an inventory of those suppliers, their corporate lineage, resource offering, skills, pricing and historical performance on behalf of the company.  Without this knowledge it will be a challenge to optimize the investment made in maintaining this network.  Constructing a database with pertinent details on your supplier organizations is a pre-cursor to assigning roles and responsibilities across an advertiser’s agency base and for determining internal oversight responsibilities.

If this is an activity the organization has yet to undertake, there is a high likelihood that there is a significant degree of overlap across the supplier base and a less than optimal utilization level within a select group of marketing agencies.  Why should an advertiser care?  Because there is an attendant cost to contracting with marketing agencies and to retaining them on the advertisers agency roster… whether those agencies are being effectively utilized or not. 

Additionally, it is quite likely that the controls that are in place vary greatly from one supplier to the next.  This begins with the master services agreement (MSA) that is in place, whether or not such contracts have been executed and or kept current and extends to the resulting statements-of-work (SOW), agency staffing plans and remuneration programs.  While there is an obvious need for customizing MSAs and SOWs by agency type, there are certain terms and conditions ranging from “non-disclosure” and “non-compete clauses” to “right to audit” clauses, “document retention” policies and “intellectual property rights” assertions which provide critical controls that should be present in each MSA.  The question is; “Are they?” Further, once an MSA and or an SOW has been reviewed, updated and executed these documents should be retained in a central database for “ready access” by authorized representatives from Marketing, Procurement, Legal, Finance and Internal Audit.

Cataloging agency costs is another important step in constructing a marketing supplier database.  Armed with a deeper understanding of agency bill rates, overhead rates, direct and indirect expenses and multipliers an organization will be able to construct agency remuneration packages that are fair to the agencies and which generate savings for the advertiser.  One of the important bi-products of this information is the ability to benchmark supplier costs across agencies and makes for some interesting comparisons for those advertisers working with multiple agencies owned by the same holding company.

Implementing a systematic marketing supplier performance review program to be followed by the advertiser’s marketing department and marketing suppliers will provide a layer of qualitative data to further assess the effectiveness of each agency and to proactively identify potential weak links within the network.  Laggards can be targeted for performance improvement actions and or replaced in the event of continued sub-par results.

Ironically, the most valuable benefit of a marketing supplier database is the role it can play in advancing an organization’s collaborative supplier management (CSM) initiatives.  Aside from boosting agency performance and marketing ROI a well-orchestrated CSM program will enhance supplier satisfaction, longevity and fuel supplier motivation to invest in the client-relationship.  In the words of former Federal Reserve Chairman, Alan Greenspan;

“I have found no greater satisfaction than achieving success through honest dealing and strict adherence to the view that, for you to gain, those you deal with should gain as well.”

Interested in learning more about supplier visibility systems?  Contact Cliff Campeau, Principal at Advertising Audit & Risk Management at ccampeau@aarmusa.com for a complimentary consultation. 

 

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