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LEAD 2023: Marketing in Unprecedented Times

The Advertising Association, the Institute of Practitioners in Advertising (IPA) and The Incorporated Society of British Advertisers (ISBA) held their annual summit this week. MediaSense Client Director, Lucy Medd summarises the themes from LEAD.

Investing in future talent, how creativity can be an accelerator for growth, advertising’s role in the net zero economy and diversity and inclusion were all important industry themes covered at LEAD. The newly appointed President of ISBA, Margaret Jobling, CMO of NatWest also discussed Marketing in today’s complex and volatile environment and ISBA’s role in helping marketeers navigate this.

Transparency and Effectiveness

A 2020 ISBA and PWC study into the programmatic supply chain revealed that at the premium end of the market only half of advertiser spend made it to publishers and 15% of spend could not be attributed – referred to as the ‘unknown delta’. As expected, this caused natural concern among marketeers about the lack of transparency and accountability at a time when 90% of digital display ads were being traded programmatically.

The latest study carried out in conjunction with the Association of Online Publishers (AOP) suggests signs of improvement, although there is still some way to go until full transparency is achieved. The ‘unknown delta’ of unattributable spend has now fallen to 3%. Carried out over nine months (the first iteration took 18 months with an improvement in reporting), the study also shows the proportion of advertiser spend to reach publishers has increased to 65% (from 49%).

Jobling is clear on the need for greater transparency within the industry as whole, encouraging all CMOs to keep asking questions and work collaboratively with agencies and auditors to ensure that they can “inspect what they can expect”.

Without this collaboration, measurement will remain siloed and opaque. Jobling concluded with the importance of tools to power media choices, utilising accountable data and to be able to see the contribution of each media channel. The ISBA backed programme for cross media measurement Project Origin is still in testing phase for its launch in 2024.

Images: ©BronacMcNeill

Talent & Agency Relationships in 2023

Alessandra Bellini, President of the Advertising Association provided some stark statistics in her talk about investing in our talent’s future. There are 14% fewer people employed within the industry versus pre-pandemic. This talent crisis, in addition to market volatility forcing changes in media investment and proliferation of audience consumption has resulted in agencies feeling more under pressure (viewpoints echoed in last year’s WFA & MediaSense Global Talent Report).

Advertisers are similarly feeling anxious and stretched with the economic and political upheaval happening in the UK and Globally. As a result, the relationship between advertisers and agencies is pivotal for success in what can feel like a somewhat uncontrollable environment at times.

The Positive Pitch Pledge launched by ISBA and the IPA in 2022 had this relationship in mind, seeking to improve the behaviours of agencies and advertisers around pitching. The focus of the pledge (MediaSense are a signatory) was to ensure the pitch process becomes more intentional, accountable, and responsible for all parties. With the aim to drive better outcomes and a very clear focus on staff wellbeing and mental health. Over 70 companies to date have signed the pledge across the industry with the hope that these initiatives can help drive longer-term, sustainable partnerships.

Regulatory Uncertainty

On top of existing challenges, a turbulent regulatory landscape only makes things more complex. Jobling cited the need for evidence-based policies, backed up by data, stating “a need for evolution, not revolution”. 2022 saw the second delay of the HFSS (high fat, salt, sugar) restriction, which would ban HFSS advertising on TV- pre-watershed and include online restrictions. Now pushed back until 2025 and welcomed by ISBA who stated, “Advertising has been treated as a silver bullet, when the evidence shows that restrictions of this kind would make no difference to child obesity levels”.

More recently, the Scottish Government published a public consultation on restricting alcohol advertising with ministers planning to prohibit ads on Scottish TV, OOH and through sports sponsorship. Whilst the nature of these policy changes is well intentioned, it creates uncertainty for advertisers. ISBA have urged advertisers in sectors such as gambling, financial institutions offering loans, autos, and travel brands to “pause and take note”.

A Collective Push for Progress

Despite the words “unprecedented”, “permacrisis” and “uncertainty” cited throughout the day, there was an overwhelming feeling of cautious optimism within the room. Whilst the market forecasts will continue to be volatile and unpredictable for some time, this feeling of collaboration and working together needs to be fostered to tackle the more pressing issues such as the climate emergency, diversity and inclusion, and mental health within our industry. Rounding off the summit, Dan Clays, CEO of Omnicom Media Group urged the industry to not let ‘perfectionism get in the way of progress in 2023’.

Further Reading:

  1. IPA and ISBA Launch Pitch Positive Pledge to Improve Pitching Behaviours
  2. WFA and MediaSense Global Talent Report Launches – Media Industry Facing “Worst-Ever” Talent Crisis
  3. ISBA’s 2021 Ad Net Zero Report
  4. MediaSense Launches DE&I Audit Programme for Advertisers

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