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Marketers it’s time to step out of the shadows to take back control

There were a few things which were evident in this last round of the Advertising Week held in New York, the primary one being transparency. It’s a sign of our times that there is so much distrust between the marketers and the big holding companies (WPP, IPG, Publicis, Dentsu, and Omnicom), which has actually led to companies which you would not ordinarily associate with the marketing space taking a keener interest in it (PwC, EY, Accenture, Deloitte and KPMG).

This was echoed by Marc Pritchard (Procter & Gamble chief brand officer), who recently made a statement about the digital supply chain being “murky at best, and fraudulent at worst”. He believes that we are 50% of the way to cleaning up the digital supply chain. This was a theme that was picked up during the Advertising Week.

These are only my views but I believe they are sound observations:

Confusion reigns – no one really has a grasp of digital, automation, or programmatic. Anyone who tells you that they have a solid grasp of the current ad tech is ultimately lying to you. As Martin Cass (CEO, MDC Media Partners and Assembly) mentioned when asked about clients understanding of ad tech “they don’t understand it. We have become experts on the top of a pinhead and there are probably 1,000 people operating on the top of that pinhead. It’s so utterly bewildering and confusing. If you sat down with a CMO and asked him what most ad tech does he would not have a clue”.

A larger degree of mistrust – the mistrust movement started with programmatic advertising where clients realised they were being taken for a ride but couldn’t put their finger on exactly how. This has led to some clients knowing what the problem is but having an inability to root it out and overcome it, which has resulted in a deeper degree of mistrust between client and agency partners.

Agencies don’t always have the clients best interest at heart – as ex-MediaCom CEO Jon Mandel stated at the ANA 2 years ago, “media agencies will recommend or implement media that is off-strategy or off-target if it works for their financial gain”. This in itself has led to some clients taking their digital media budgets in-house, and setting up internal automation centres capable of buying media direct from the key digital players (Google and Facebook).

Media agencies are in trouble – the industry has contracted commission rates for their clients to very low rates since this was not their main source of income (they essentially acted like value banks being able to sell on extra inventory to other clients). Clients are now renegotiating their arrangements with media agencies to more transparent models, this means that agencies will struggle more and more, which will ultimately mean that they will find it more difficult to deliver their deals (their primary source of income).

In all this, as a marketer, it makes sense to have a discussion internally now, about how much control you want to give your external vendor partners and how much control you want to take back for yourselves.