2016 was certainly the “annus horribilis” for media agencies. Reputations were battered, commercial models criticised and TRUST was undermined. I believe agencies must grasp the bull by the horns in 2017 and focus around four ingredients to re-build trusting relationships with their clients.
- Re-discovering Purpose.
The dictionary definition of an agent is “a person who acts on behalf of another”. Agencies and their holding companies must convince they are working for brands, not for themselves. This means fighting miscreant behaviour in the digital lumascape; cracking down on ad fraud; opening up their trading desks and vendor deals to clients; accepting responsibly in contracts, not inserting escape clauses. Agencies will need to start setting the agenda, not reacting to someone else’s’.
- Behaving with Integrity.
The industry urgently needs to stand behind a code of ethics – conflicts of interest must be flagged and dealt with. Data is a major area of risk too. Agencies must demand better data integrity from walled garden media suppliers, and set higher standards in their own data provision to third parties. Acting with integrity also requires media traders to be honest about why they are investing in a platform, and being prepared to walk away from delinquent media owners and clients.
- Enhancing service Capabilities.
Marketers want to work with competent, efficient, transparent and collaborative agency partners who ride with change. Agencies which apply technology to improve their operational productivity will win. To keep up with their clients, agencies need more CTOs, CIOs and Data Scientists in the boardroom, and force changes to legacy ways of working throughout their workforce .
- Delivering on Performance.
It’s a results business after all. Agencies must increasingly seek to align with their clients’ KPIs, not self-serving auditor metrics. Agency brands will need to step out of the shadow of their holding companies to negotiate relevant and meaningful KPIs directly with their clients. Investing in systems to verify, track and evidence performance delivery will be a business-critical imperative for all agencies in an increasingly fragmenting media landscape.
Let’s hope 2017 will mark a turning point in client/agency relations. It’s a time for Actions to speak louder than Words.
Andy Pearch is Co-Founder of MediaSense, global media advisors helping brands take control of their media.