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Impossible: 1 + 1 Can’t = 3

23 Mar

dreamstime_xs_6452736Late last week a group of marketers filed an amended lawsuit against Facebook alleging that it knowingly overestimated audience reach levels.

Court papers filed in the suit indicate that:

“Facebook’s internal documents show that Facebook personnel knew for years that the Potential Reach metric that it provides to Facebook advertisers on its advertisement purchasing interfaces (including on Ads Manager and Power Editor) was inflated and misleading.”

The evidence for these actions was identified in the original complaint and were based upon analysis conducted by independent groups, including the Video Advertising Bureau. In their 2017 report, the Video Advertising Bureau found that Facebook’s purported reach in every state in the U.S. exceeded their populations. A red flag to be sure.

Not excusing Facebook’s alleged behavior, one would think that an observant marketer or agency media buyer would question reach levels that are greater than the population of a given market(s) and raise questions, long before such revelations are made in relation to a lawsuit.

The irony is that reach estimates apparently were not questioned by agency planners or clients during the media planning process, nor at the time of post-campaign performance summary meetings. The seminal question is, “Why not?” Further, if and when suspicions were raised, wouldn’t it be reasonable to expect media buyers to exclude any publisher suspected of inflating reach levels from consideration to begin with, and cease allocating client media funds to that entity moving forward? The answer is obviously “no.”

When one sees examples of this type of lackluster media stewardship, it is easy to understand why the C-Suite might question the efficacy of their organization’s advertising investments.

The fact of the matter is that Facebook has seen its annual global ad revenues grow from $1.8 billion in 2010 to over $69.5 billion in 2019 (source: Statista, 2020). Along the way, there had been publicly aired concerns about the accuracy of Facebook’s user base, culminating with the platform’s acknowledged purges of 3.3 billion “fake” accounts in 2018 and another 5.4 billion in 2019.

Certainly, as part of the heralded duopoly, media professionals have been keenly aware of the share of digital ad spend which Google and Facebook have accounted for as part of the digital media sector’s meteoric growth. eMarketer estimates that the duo represented 56.3% of total U.S. digital ad spend in 2019, with Facebook accounting for 19.2% of the total.

During this period of increased digital ad spend, advertisers paid their digital agency partners plenty in the way of fees and commissions to provide consultation, planning support, buy stewardship and oversight. So why did it take so long to identify the fact that a media seller’s reach exceeded the audience universe?

“The obvious is that which is never seen until someone expresses it simply.” ~ Khalil Gibran

Accenture Exiting the Media Auditing Space Creates an Accountability Gap

17 Feb

Acc_Logo_Black_Purple_RGBIt was a move many industry pundits saw coming. With a focus on expanding its interactive marketing services business, which accounted for $10 billion in revenue in 2019, Accenture made the announcement that it was going to “ramp down” its media auditing, price benchmarking and pitch management business by the end of August.

Advertising agencies and competitors within the media audit space were quick to celebrate the news, for differing reasons.

Agencies for their part have long felt that as Accenture grew its interactive marketing services practice, their audit services represented a conflict of interest. Afterall, how could a marketer trust the objectivity of the advice of an audit firm reviewing an incumbent digital agency, when the parent company offered services that were competitive to the incumbent? One fear among agencies was that Accenture could leverage the information taken in on the audit side and generate competitive insights that would yield an unfair advantage when pitching their digital capabilities to advertisers.

Media audit firms, which stand to gain business as Accenture winds down media audit activity, point out that Accenture’s approach to auditing, pitch management and media rate analysis, which relies on its proprietary rate benchmarking pool was dated and less relevant than in the past.

While there may be merit to both group’s perspectives, Accenture’s decision creates a major resource gap when it comes to global media accountability and transparency.

Make no mistake, there are a number of experienced, highly reputable independent media audit firms that will help to fill the void left by Accenture. That said, most lack the scale and or depth of resources to truly backfill this resource gap. This perspective was echoed by Rob Rakowitz of the World Federation of Advertisers’ (WFA) Global Alliance for Responsible Media, who stated that at a time when the “media supply chain needs more clarity” Accenture’s decision to exit the audit space “creates a hole” when it comes to independent oversight.

Interestingly, the holding companies have focused their commentary in the wake of Accenture’s announcement on the “competitive conflict” aspect of the discussion. However, some holding company financial executives, who know full well the impact of independent oversight on their media agency bottom lines, are likely breathing a sigh of relief. Since the Association of National Advertisers (ANA) 2016 report on media transparency, scrutiny of media agency practices and the resulting downward pressure on margins tied to curtailing some of the non-transparent agency revenue practices cited in the ANA’s report have been costly to agencies.

The good news is that there has been progress since the issuance of the ANA report four short years ago. Client/ Agency agreement language has improved, more advertisers have conducted contract compliance and performance audits and media supply chain transparency initiatives have gained traction. The global fraternity of contract compliance and media performance auditors, along with advertiser trade associations such as the ANA, WFA and ISBA have all played an important role in ushering in reforms tied to improved accountability and transparency practices.

Now is not the time for less oversight and one can only hope that the loss of Accenture Media Management and the $40 billion of annual global media spend coverage it represented will not impede industry media accountability efforts. Advertisers can ill afford further reductions in their working media.

 

Haven’t We Seen This Picture Before?

20 Dec

Frame movie, clapperboard blue neon icon. Simple thin line, outline vector of cinema icons for ui and ux, website or mobile applicationAs you are likely aware, over-the-top (OTT) television expenditures are rising incredibly fast. According to Magna Global, OTT grew at a rate of 39% this year with advertisers spending $3.2 billion in this sector of the TV marketplace. Further, Magna is projecting spend levels of $5.0 billion in 2020.

As consumer demand for viewing video content via the internet on devices such as smart TVs, gaming consoles, laptops, tablets and smart phones continues to escalate, advertisers are jumping at the opportunity to reach these so called “cord cutters.” However, while advertising demand is strong the supply of OTT impressions or inventory is limited.

This scenario has created an opportunity for fraudsters that attempt to fool advertisers into buying OTT inventory that doesn’t actually exist. eMarketer estimated that in 2018 fully 1 out of 5 OTT impressions were invalid due to “a combination of fraud and ad serving measurement errors.” Compounding this issue is the fact that approximately 40% of OTT ad impressions are served via server-side ad insertion (source: AdLedger, 2019) thus rendering traditional fraud detection services, which rely on Java script, ineffective.

One cannot help but view this scenario and its similarities to the challenges and risks associated with programmatic digital media and real-time bidding. Sadly, the ad industry’s demonstrated willingness to latch on to “shiny new objects” comes with real risks and at a significant cost. Worse, once the proverbial genie is out of the bottle, the industry has demonstrated an inability to marshal its resources in a timely, efficient manner to create standardized measurement and tracking solutions to combat fraud and safeguard advertiser funds.

And, as with the meteoric growth of digital advertising, advertisers are all too willing to jump in, versus testing the waters or forgoing investing in these emerging channels while fraud prevention controls are introduced, tested and rolled out. The net result is that advertisers must spend more money spent on ad tech, fraud detection and viewability services, while the downward pressure on working media dollars multiplies.

Earlier this spring, Forbes published an article on ad fraud and the OTT market, in which it interviewed Adam Helfgott, CEO of MadHive. Mr. Helfgott identified a range of ways in which OTT ad fraud can manifest itself. These included fraudulent arbitragers misrepresenting where an advertiser’s impressions actually ran and app-based or device-based fraud which report uncharacteristically high activity levels, not reflective of human consumption patterns.

While Mr. Helfgott believes that OTT ad fraud can be combatted using blockchain-based technology, he suggested that the first step in the process is for industry stakeholders to acknowledge that OTT ad fraud can and is occurring. That said, it is scary to think that there are those who would believe otherwise.

If knowledge truly is the key to success, then perhaps the ad industry would benefit from Austrian philosopher, Ludwig Wittgenstein’s words of wisdom:

“Knowledge is in the end is based on acknowledgement.”

Advertisers Take Decisive Action to Safeguard Their Media Spend

25 Jul

Abstract concept, fingers are touching padlock symbol, With protAdvertisers, particularly larger, multi-national advertisers are assuming a greater level of responsibility for their organization’s media investments. The goal is to safeguard those investments and to spend their media dollars wisely.

The actions being taken by advertisers are clearly the result of the media industry not moving quickly or forcefully enough to resolve key issues confronting advertisers. Issues such as fraud, brand safety, viewability, tracking and performance vouching pose serious risks that undermine media effectiveness.

On the fraud front alone, cybersecurity firm Cheq issued a report earlier this year indicating that global ad fraud will cost advertisers “an unprecedented $23 billion” in 2019. Experts have stated that the continued growth in digital media expenditures, which will top $300 billion worldwide, combined with the lack of governmental and industry oversight makes this category highly appealing to fraudsters and organized crime.

Given the complexity of the global media supply chain and the technical nature of the sector advertisers are seeking to increase the level of rigor surrounding media performance and accountability.

Advertisers seeking greater transparency and security over their media funds and data have grown weary of waiting for the requisite level of support from their media supply chain partners. This has led some advertisers to transition certain aspects of their media planning and buying activities in-house. Others have formed or increased staffing and resource support for corporate media functions to enhance controls and stewardship over the investment of their media funds.

More broadly, in the wake of the Association of National Advertisers (ANA) 2016 study on media transparency, the organization in conjunction with its partner in the study, Ebiquity, issued a recommendation for advertisers to “appoint a chief media officer (in title or function) who should take responsibility for the internal media management and governance processes that deliver performance, media accountability and transparency throughout the client/ agency relationship.”

Recently, the World Federation of Advertisers (WFA), through its Media Board, recently announced that its members had formed the Global Alliance for Responsible Media. The Alliance will also be championed by the ANA’s CMO Growth Council, a member organization of the WFA. The council, which includes a coalition of advertisers, agencies, publishers, platforms and industry associations, will focus on delivering a “concrete set of actions, processes and protocols for protecting brands.”

We are hopeful that the initiatives being taken by progressive marketers such as P&G, Mars, Unilever and Diageo will spur the industry to action when it comes to comes to controls that safeguard media spend and improve the efficacy of those investments for all media advertisers.

While a rising tide may lift all boats, as the adage goes, we know from experience that when it comes to media accountability organizations cannot rely solely on the efforts of other advertisers, agencies or associations to protect their self-interests. This requires an ongoing commitment to improving media accountability, performance monitoring and stewardship efforts by them, their agents and intermediaries. In the words of Thomas Francis Meagher: “Great interests demand great safeguards.”

 

 

Does Anyone Care About Media?

12 Apr

Coaching Mentoring Education Business Training Development E-learning ConceptMcKinsey estimated that companies across the globe could spend in excess of $2.0 trillion on media in 2019.

A big number to be sure, and for most advertisers the media component of their marketing spend, which runs between 10.4% – 14.0% of annual revenue is a material SG&A expense (Source: The CMO Study, from Deloitte, AMA, Fuqua School of Business at Duke University).

Thus it was surprising to read the results of advertising and media consultant ID Comms recent survey assessing advertiser interest in media training. Seventy-one percent of the respondents indicated that the “investment in media training” by advertisers was “unsatisfactory or entirely unsatisfactory.”

Given that in aggregate, the survey respondents firms spend “in excess of $20 billion” on media globally, one might say that their response was stunning. This is particularly so given the scrutiny that has been given to media advertising in the wake of the Association of National Advertisers (ANA) 2016 study on “Media Transparency” that brought to light some of the financial risks faced by advertisers in this area.

So why haven’t advertisers stepped up their investment in building media competency? It would seem that advertisers the world over would place a much higher level of priority on the recruitment and training of media personnel to help them steward their media agencies to safeguard and optimize their media spend.

Media savvy marketing professionals understand that the cost: benefit proposition for staffing and training corporate media departments is quite compelling. In fact, the ID Comms survey went on to point out that nearly all of the survey respondents agreed that “brands can gain a competitive advantage in marketing” by elevating their firm’s media capabilities.

Companies have plenty of Chiefs, ranging from Chief Executive Officers, Chief Operating Officers, Chief Financial Officers and Chief Marketing Officers to Chief Risk Officers, Chief Procurement Officers, Chief Technology Officers, Chief Information Officers, Chief Revenue Officers and more.

Okay, so perhaps there is no room left in the C-Suite for a Chief Media Officer. No worries, build out the corporate media function within the marketing pyramid. No money in the HR budget to hire a seasoned media professional? No worries, bring on a fractional Corporate Media Director to assist in staffing and training the department.

The need is real.

What advertiser wouldn’t benefit from investing in the ongoing training and education of their marketing and or corporate media staffs? Honing capabilities related to setting media strategy, establishing KPIs, crafting a compelling media brief, reviewing media plans, evaluating media performance, building an understanding of the adtech sector and managing a diverse roster of media agencies would yield both near and long-term financial returns.

With the desire to improve “working media” in an increasingly complex marketplace companies would benefit mightily from building their corporate media proficiencies.

“Hire for passion and intensity; there is training for everything else.” ~ Nolan Bushnell

 

 

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.”

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

 

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.”

 

 

Media Agencies on Edge as Management Consultants Take Aim

1 Jun

Contract SigningIt came as no surprise to anyone in the industry when Accenture recently announced the launch of its programmatic ad unit. After all, weeks before Accenture had completed the acquisition of Meredith’s digital media unit MXM. Further, over the course of the last few years many of the large management consultancies, including Accenture, had acquired creative, design, digital, CRM, Social and full-service agencies as they looked to expand their presence in the marketing services sector.

The row over Accenture’s announcement, at least within the agency community, was focused on its Media Management practice and the work that they do globally in the media auditing and agency review space. The argument proffered by agencies and their associations, specifically the 4As and the UK’s IPA, was that it was inappropriate for Accenture to provide media auditing and search consulting services and programmatic media buying due to the potential for conflict of interest. In short, the agencies expressed concern that Accenture would utilize the data that is accesses in its media management practice to inform its work in the programmatic buying area.

Many would argue that the “conflict of interest” defense raised by the agency community rings hollow. This is due to the fact that Accenture and other management consulting firms routinely implement firewalls and processes to separate and protect data from one client or practice being co-mingled or misused intentionally or not by another.

Further, the agency community has had its share of “conflict of interest” challenges in the recent past ranging from its acceptance of AVBs to media arbitrage to ownership interests in intermediary firms not disclosed to clients that have served to undermine their credibility and the level of trust clients are willing to afford them. Thus, while Accenture’s announcement may be a sensitive topic for agencies, clients will likely have little concern.

Let’s face it, the world is changing and the media landscape has become more complex thanks in large to the growing impact of technology, accelerated levels of media fragmentation and fundamental shifts in consumer media consumption habits. Marketers in particular have become more highly focused on the effective use of data and insights to better target select audiences, geographies, behaviors, etc. Thus, organizations looking to boost their performance and to optimize their marketing investment, are seeking partners that can provide holistic, objective, strategic insights to guide their decision making.

Management Consultants are well positioned to provide the requisite marketplace, competitive and consumer assessments along with strategic recommendations and tactical implementation support across the evolving marketing funnel. Global in scope, the large consultancies have hundreds of thousands of employees, serving in a variety of specialized practices that can be tapped to work with marketers in the identification of problems and opportunities and the pursuit of strategies to achieve their business objectives. The addition of programmatic media capabilities to encompass planning and buying is a logical extension of the consultants service offerings.

Media agencies were long the profit engines for agency holding companies and the onset of digital media and the meteoric growth of programmatic buying represented a boon for media agency margins. Unfortunately, revelations about certain buying practices and growing advertiser concern over the lack of transparency surrounding their digital media investment ushered in a period in which advertisers began to actively evaluate new media agency partners, tighter client-agency contracts and new digital media models. It should be noted that among the new models that advertisers have pursued has been bringing aspects of the programmatic media buying process in-house, often with the counsel and assistance of management consulting firms. These trends have allowed the consultancies to curry favor with CEOs and CMOs and to expand their toe hold in what had been space traditionally dominated by ad agencies.

Given the size of the global programmatic marketplace, measured at $14.2 billion in 2015 and estimated to be $36.8 billion in 2019 (source: MAGNA Global, June, 2016), it is easy to see the appeal for the management consulting firms in general and Accenture in specific. As an aside, the market potential in this sector dwarfs the size of the media auditing and review market by a wide margin.

The media agency community would best be served by focusing on what it can do to leverage its position of strength to protect its share of the media planning and buying business. Time spent focused on “conflict of interest” claims as a defense against incursions from consultants or other non-traditional competitors will likely garner little support outside of the agency community and will therefore not be productive.

 

 

If Not an RFP, Then What?

15 Mar

RFP ProcessIt was with great interest that I read a recent article on Digiday entitled; “End of an era: Media buyers are ditching the much-hated RFP” that heralded the demise of the digital RFP.

For those of us with a media background, we’re certainly familiar with the longstanding list of complaints leveled by media sellers at agencies on the multitude of abuses heaped upon them by what is perceived as an unfair or at least highly disorganized and inefficient RFP process. I get it and I empathize with the media sellers for the inequities which they have suffered at the hands of misguided or poorly trained media buyers.

Let’s face it, the RFP does serve an important role in allowing media agency buyers to gather the requisite detail from media sellers as it relates to their ability to deliver on the agency’s media plan and to solicit inventory, audience delivery and pricing feedback.

Yes, the standardization of RFP templates appears to be a pipedream and the resulting impact on the time and effort required by media sellers to complete these RFPs is onerous, the process cumbersome and meaningful feedback from agency media buyers rare. For these and other reasons, it is understood that agency media buyers and publishers alike dislike RFPs.

That said, some of the reasons cited in the aforementioned article to support the declining use of RFP’s should raise concerns among advertisers. I’m not talking about the reduced role of price negotiations due to the increased use of biddable media, but rather the notion that an uptick in the use of digital direct buying, agencies relying on meetings with sellers rather than an RFP or a seller’s ability to “figure out what the strategy is” do not support abandonment of this important tool.

Properly executed, the RFP process allows an agency buyer to communicate strategic and tactical instructions to the seller. In turn, asking sellers for feedback on how best to drive performance for the advertiser’s brand can yield a treasure trove of information. The RFP also provides an excellent opportunity for publishers to make a compelling case as to why they should be on the buy.

Additionally, RFPs serve as an ideal tool for establishing parameters on items such as site retargeting, frequency capping and content considerations (including restrictions). It allows media buyers to gather the requisite detail on items ranging from data segments and sources to audience specifications and universe estimates. How better to communicate creative unit specifications or cross device allocations and target consumption levels or to establish measurement requirements for everything from impressions and video completion rates to qualified site visitors, viewability levels and cost per completed view. What about identifying verification sources and costs, third-party tagging requirements and or establishing the level of reporting granularity.

Last, but certainly not least, the RFP serves a vital “accountability” role by clearly establishing advertiser expectations and communicating guidelines that a seller will need to adhere to, should a deal be transacted.

So while the RFP process is far from perfect, rather than scrapping it, I would advocate that the process be revamped to make it more relevant to all stakeholders, less onerous for media sellers and more productive for agency media buyers. In the words of the noted journalist George Will:

“The pursuit of perfection often impedes improvement.”

 

 

 

 

 

 

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