They are, of course, right. But is that the whole truth? I don't think it is entirely. Let's be clear -- there is a fundamental shift in how agencies and brands now work with each other, and the elephant in the room here is data being collected and applied across an incredibly complex, fragmented and varied media landscape. Taking data gleaned from someone sharing content in social media, combining it with a video consumed on a mobile device and then applying it to a display campaign takes speed and agility in handling data that probably was not considered the last time these mega deals were struck.
So the requirements have changed, and it's understandable that might mean that large advertisers want to take another look at what's out on the market.
However, there's a back story to this, and it lies in brands not always trusting their agencies to be wholly transparent. Brands don't always know whether agencies truly have the skills they claim to, and they certainly aren't completely assured their data is in the safest hands, that they can get it back in a readable form at a moment's notice, and that the insights it brings are not being shared with rivals. What's more, they're not entirely sure where all the cost is -- how many middle companies and pieces of technology are taking a cut? Media costs are supposed to have gone down but agencies are earning, on average, an extra 25% in fees.
So there are enough questions there for brands to lift a lid on skill sets, capabilities, media cost, and another can of worms -- viewability. This leads to the fundamental question that few can answer -- for every hundred pounds/dollars/euros you charge me, how much viewable media do I get? ISBA, the "voice" of the British advertisers, claims that some brands have been told by auditors that it can be as little as a 50:50 split between media cost and the overall bill.
It's not surprising, then, that many are starting to ask questions of agencies around technology, transparency, costs and data. It's also not surprising that some brands are starting to buy in their own data hub capabilities and plugging themselves into ad networks direct, potentially without a media agency involved. They are currently a tiny minority, so let's not get carried away. But you can bet your bottom dollar that many brands are keeping a watching brief on their success or failure to see if there is a way they can get more bang for their proverbial buck by going in-house.
So there are searching questions that advertisers are beginning to ask agencies, and some major accounts may well change hands this year.
Ultimately, however, I think we're seeing the start of two questions just beginning to form in the minds of many advertisers. If it's all about data, and I can build a data hub, and if display is going to increasingly be automated, and I can plug in to a network of two of my choice; what do I need you for?