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Lost in Translation: why the media industry needs a common language

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I have spent the last day or so at the annual ANA Financial Conference in Miami, attended in the main by procurement specialists, agencies and vendors. Not a lot of surprises about the agenda – the usual suspects of transparency, in-housing, marketing automation and AI.

The unexpected theme emerging from a number of the presentations has been the problems caused by the absence of a clear and shared language used between organisations active in the media ecosystem.

For example, while MGM Resorts have built an impressive in-house agency, in its early days they suffered frequent communications failures in briefings between internal clients and agency teams until they wrote a Glossary of Terms together.

In another session on Blockchain, experts talked about the absence of a standardised Data Dictionary being a major hurdle to the future implementation of smart contracts and transparent ledgers. In a data-driven marketing world, having a shared taxonomy is crucial for systems to function.

Elsewhere communication disconnects abound. In a session on remuneration, an agency spokeswoman eloquently exposed the paradox between the commoditizing effects of procurement RFIs and the bespoke nature of the modern day creative development process.

Another area where misunderstanding among delegates proliferates is in understanding the components of the Media Supply Chain. A typical disconnect here is the common misconception that increasing working media ratios in digital improves efficiency, whereas it can actually lead to worsening ROI.

Worryingly, the evidence from the ANA suggests the knowledge gaps and language barriers between specialists and generalists appears to be widening. One way of bridging the gap is to invest in better training and education about the marketing supply chain. But to really move forward towards truly data-driven marketing, clients, agencies and platforms must start utilising and sharing common languages, taxonomies, definitions and metrics.

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