GroupM Chief Digital Officer Rob Norman took the ANA to task for its media-buying practices report issued last week in a blog post issued today, which is being posted on outlets including Mediavillage.com and both Norman’s and GroupM’s LinkedIn pages, as well as on GroupM.com.
The report, Norman wrote, failed to note the significant investments made by agencies in the technology and data sectors to keep up with the growing complexity within the media landscape -- and the added value such investments have produced for advertisers.
While advertisers continue to squeeze agencies on price via their procurement efforts as the ANA report notes, Norman stated that the study “omits acknowledgement that in spite of such pressure media services companies play an important role in supporting clients through a time of technology enabled radical change in consumer behavior and media consumption.”
Agencies have saved their clients millions with effective steps taken in the areas of verification, viewability, anti-fraud, anti-piracy and consumer privacy measures, Norman notes/ “Our contribution, and that of our peers” to these efforts have “been entirely overlooked in the ANA report.”
Norman also challenged the report’s assessment of principal trading models and wrote that instead of dismissing such models as non-transparent ways to leverage client volume, they should be seen for what they are: models based on supply-and-demand dynamics that benefit advertisers and agencies alike and with some risk to the latter. “It is our right to assume our own risks to the benefit of our own business especially when they only reward us if they reward the advertiser.”
Here’s the full blog posting:
The ANA Report – Addressing complexity is a complex issue
Rob Norman: Chief Digital Officer GroupM Worldwide, Chairman GroupM North America
The changing media environment has raised client expectations of agency technology capability to a level that is unrecognizable from a decade ago. Yet (perhaps unsurprisingly) nowhere in the ANA US Transparency Report, nor likely in the upcoming guidelines, is a positive reference made to either the increasing complexity of the US media market or the investments in technology, data and human expertise made by media services companies and their parent companies in response.
The report acknowledges the pricing pressures imposed on agencies by clients and their procurement offices. However, it omits acknowledgement that in spite of such pressure media services companies play an important role in supporting clients through a time of technology enabled radical change in consumer behavior and media consumption.
This includes the development of the highest possible standards of verification, viewability, anti-fraud, anti-piracy and consumer privacy measures. These have promoted integrity in the digital supply chain and protected advertiser investments and reputations. In our estimation this has saved advertisers many millions of dollars. Our contribution, and that of our peers, to this process has been entirely overlooked in the ANA report.
In response companies like ours have made, and continue to make, real and necessary investments, in order to effectively plan and trade new markets and provide seller agnostic solutions for our clients who, as the report points out, value vendor neutrality.
The evidence of our actual technology investments is significant:
These investments enable us to apply data and technology to the purchase of inventory. The addition of data, tech and analysis transforms the nature of the underlying commodity by turning billions of impressions into relevant and valuable audiences.
This is a new class of media asset. We offer this new asset to clients in two ways. The first way is at a high level of service pricing with as much underlying disclosure of costs at the vendor level as possible; many clients choose this. Alternatively, we offer advertisers guaranteed pricing for a given objective, bundling all costs of data, media, tech and service. This is a principal trading model. As we have repeatedly stated this requires an opt-in, is subject to constant performance review and in no way depends on leveraging the spend of advertisers who do not opt in as we are leveraging technology and data not volume of advertiser spend.
In either approach to working with us, the client enjoys the same GroupM standards of viewability and verification which we’ve set at bars surpassing industry norms. We continue to win client business against traditional and new competitors with both models because we create competitive advantage for advertisers.
It is our perspective that advertisers and their advisors should take a value-centric point of view around principal media trading models in digital and other media. These models are developed on the basis of marketplace insights into supply and demand dynamics and not the leverage of client volumes. The ANA Report does not concede that this is possible and inaccurately suggests such models must be at the compromise of value due to clients. Media service companies accept many risks including intellectual property liability on behalf of clients. In turn it is our right to assume our own risks to the benefit of our own business especially when they only reward us if they reward the advertiser.
The ANA report seems to suggest that there is something wrong with agencies being rewarded for these investments and acceptance of risk.
In no way do we expect advertisers to participate blindly. It is the agency’s clear responsibility to demonstrate both value and the lack of harm caused by creating that value. We hope that the Ebiquity-authored guidelines take a balanced view of this issue. Of course they should encourage vigilance; of course they should encourage clients to be satisfied that these business models are delivering value. What they should ensure is that the guidelines do not have the effect of reducing investment in ‘fit for market’ technology and ultimately disadvantaging advertisers in the name of transparency. It seems that such a balanced approach is in keeping with the stated business purpose of auditors and consultants collaborating with the ANA who are focused on helping advertisers achieve business success in changing times. That’s a great goal and one we share.