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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.





Is the Size of Your Agency Network Limiting Performance?

28 Jan

enhance agency network performanceGone are the days of the full-service advertising agency, providing integrated support across a broad range of marketing disciplines. Today, advertisers rely on a network of marketing services agencies that specialize in specific functional areas, geographies or diversity segments. The net effect of this shift is that the number of agencies which comprise an advertiser’s agency network has mushroomed. The question one might consider; “Is a larger network of specialist agencies more than a smaller network effective?”

With this question in mind, it was with great interest that I read a paper entitled; “Why individuals in larger teams perform worse.” The paper was based upon a study conducted by Jennifer Mueller, Professor of Management at Wharton who sought to explore team size and the impact on individual performance. The parallels between individuals serving on a team and specialty agencies collaborating as part of a vendor network are quite striking.

Professor Mueller found that the cost of collaboration was higher for larger teams. Of note, one of the “costs” identified in the study was tied to less time available to form meaningful relationships that boost productivity with each member of the team. How many firms make up an advertiser’s agency network? The numbers can grow to be quite unwieldy when you consider the combination of creative services shops, media agencies, digital agencies, diversity agencies, DM agencies, PR shops, social media agencies, research firms, printers and so forth. Have client-side Marketing staffs grown sufficiently to effectively manage large, diverse vendor networks and to nurture meaningful relationships with each?

One of the other bi-products of large teams was an increased level of stress tied to uncertainty regarding “who to turn to” or to call on when a question or a need arises. This scenario when viewed in the context of the lack of role clarity and responsibilities that exemplify many agency networks and their client-side sponsors can lead to both “relational loss” and “coordination loss” each of which can impede productivity, fuel stress and negatively impact the quality of work.

The key finding of the study was that while larger groups may perform better than smaller groups (up to a point), individuals on smaller teams performed better than individuals on larger teams. Professor Mueller was able to determine that the lack of connectivity between members of a larger team was the key driver of lower productivity.

Thus the challenge for advertisers managing a large agency network is to determine a means of enhancing connectivity between those agencies in a manner which leverages their respective areas of specialization while synchronizing the efforts of the team as a whole. Improved connectivity can aid team building efforts and boost relational strengths. Professor Mueller suggests the appointment of a “troubleshooter” to serve as a quarterback or “go to” person for each team member to turn to when problems solving support is required. Many advertisers have attempted to leverage their agency of record to serve on point in the capacity of “troubleshooter.” However, history shows us that the notion of a “lead agency” serving as the go to contact for other firms in the agency network is fraught with challenges and often proves to be an exercise in futility. Preferably, the “troubleshooter” should be a representative or representatives of the client’s Marketing Team, which more directly supports the goal facilitating disparate vendor organizations to work together in an efficient, connected manner to optimize the organization’s marketing investment.

The addition of a “go to” representative when augmented with clear roles, responsibilities and contract/ compensation models tied to desired performance outcomes is an excellent method for integrating the efforts of a marketing agency network. Further, continuously monitoring agency contract compliance and performance will provide an advertiser with additional controls to mitigate risk, generate a timely stream of accurate marketing analytics data and boost productivity of the agency network. Check out the article in its entirety at [email protected]Read More



The Time is Right for Procurement & Marketing

6 Nov

time is right for marketing procurementToo often brands change advertising agencies like politicians change their stance on key issues. Debating the efficacy of this dynamic is a topic for another time. The issue which I would like to address is how Procurement can assist their Marketing peers in mitigating the risks associated with the revolving door approach being employed by many organizations when it comes to their marketing services vendor network.

Building brands is expensive to be sure and there is no guarantee that if a company invests the marketing funds necessary to launch and sustain a portfolio of brands that its efforts will yield the desired results. However, successfully building brands can create tremendous asset value for an organization which in turn can deliver superior returns to its shareholders year-in and year-out. Given the size of the budgets involved and the relatively thin margin between success and failure, it behooves an organization to optimize each and every marketing dollar invested.

To this end, the Marketing Team is perfectly capable of assessing the competitive landscape, positioning the organization’s brands for competitive success and determining the appropriate strategies for driving sales and market share. Proficiency in these areas will drive sound resource allocations decisions with regard to target penetration, market support, media selection and messaging. Marketing should “own” these areas and should be held accountable for the impact of their decisions and the resulting return on marketing investment.

So, where does the role of Strategic Sourcing come into play? In assisting Marketing with the procurement, stewardship and evaluation of its agencies, thus leveraging their processes, tools and expertise to aid marketing in the following areas;

  • Managing the vendor selection process
  • Development of agency remuneration programs
  • Best practice contract development/ negotiations
  • Improved reporting and transparency
  • Ongoing monitoring of agency performance
  • Independent auditing of agency contract complianceand performance
  • Securing and providing performance and relationship feedback to all stakeholders

With Marketing focused on the demand generation side of the ledger and Strategic Sourcing on procurement best practices, the organization stands to benefit both in terms of in-market performance and in maintaining the appropriate controls, transparency and benchmarking data that can drive marketing vendor sourcing and performance management.

The old days of decades old agency relationships are not as prevalent as they once were. Therefore, advertisers must confront the impact of the growth in the number of marketing services vendors and the frequency with which this roster of agencies changes. With change comes opportunity to be sure. But change also increases the risk quotient. With Procurement and Marketing working together the opportunity to effectively manage the risks associated with these changes; improve vendor network performance and the organization’s return-on-marketing investment increases exponentially. Interested in learning more? Check out the article by Paul Broeren, Managing Partner of Quadrivium BV on how to enhance to effectively involve procurement in the marketing services procurement process at Procurement Leaders.


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