Recent disclosures around brand safety, supply chain transparency and digital measurement “errors” are symptoms of a media ecosystem which has got its priorities all wrong.
The culture of incentivising vendors and agencies on Lowest Price has perpetuated an increasingly unreliable trading system swamped by vested interests, cheap and unverified impressions, and distrust between trading entities.
The market is structured to work for the intermediaries at the expense of the content creators and budget-holders, distorting investment allocation and often putting profits into the hands of those who add the least value and avoid accountability.
Piling money into programmatic and pitching increasingly crazy and blind pricing guarantees have made procurement savings numbers zing, but in-tow eroded the quality of service, quality of media and relegated quality of thinking.
Now the industry is waking up to the real cost of this behaviour, and marketing directors are coming to the realisation that they must step in to sort out this mess.
A new media audit is badly needed which realigns agency behaviour to clients’ best interests; probes transparency and viewability in a more collaborative manner; delivers real value to brands rather than a report card, and restores quality as the key requisite rather than price.
Not before time, as brand reputations and marketing effectiveness are both at stake. Clients are now rethinking this area, and where responsibility for media should sit in their organisation. For some this will mean bringing their agencies deeper into their organisation, for others it means creating new roles and sourcing dedicated tools.
Some will curtail spending to solve the problem. No-one can afford to do nothing, and it seems certain that marketing management will get far closer to the media category.
Pool-based media auditors also encouraged a race to the bottom. By focussing on price auditors preserved their business model and created dependency. Meanwhile, clients assumed their advice was impartial and improved media ROI.
Extending their offering into financial compliance auditing was a logical step to keep their customers’ eyes on costs, and kept the downward spiral spinning. But, as every smart digital marketer knows, the best way to improve your ROI is to increase quality and pay more to access better environments and audiences.
So, what happens next?
In media trading, the metronome will swing from low cost to high-quality media. Agencies which exact higher expectations and closer scrutiny of vendor offerings will win; agencies which persist in buying audiences at bargain-basement rates will lose.
In agency governance, responsibility for owning the media category is likely to swing from procurement to marketing. Brands which grasp the nettle and invest in media category expertise will win, and in the longer term will discover ways of spending less to achieve more.
The metronome must also swing from audits of Media Cost to audits of Media Systems. A new media audit is badly needed which realigns agency behaviour to clients’ best interests; probes transparency and viewability in a more collaborative manner; delivers real value to brands rather than a report card, and restores quality as the key requisite rather than price.
The whole media category is set to go up a level, focussing on value creation not cost reduction. Are you ready for the change?