Keys To Transparency

  • by , Featured Contributor, September 23, 2016
Transparency is a big word in the media business these days. It’s in the trades regularly, and once again the subject of a major Wall Street Journal story.

Everyone is pretty much past any notion that the ad industry doesn't have a transparency problem. We know it does. The issue has been around the U.S. biz in its latest forms for a number of years, and certainly got worse over the past five. And, thanks to the ANA, K2 and Ebiquity, the issue is now part of the discussion whenever and wherever industry folks get together. We will certainly hear a lot about it next week, when Advertising Week descends on New York City.

Lots of folks have put out lots of great points of view on dealing with transparency, including my good friend Joe Apprendi earlier this week  so I thought I’d add my own. Here are a couple of my thoughts on how we should deal with transparency issues:



Change the terminology -- and the conversation. The longer we talk about media as a cost-based, substitutable commodity and the less we manage it as results-driving marketing, the longer transparency issues will persist. Now is the time to move from costs to results, from media weight to business outcomes, from demographics to people.

Elevate the media function at marketing companies. Marketers in the U.S. must elevate the role and visibility of their chief media officers. This was a key recommendation from Ebiquity. It’s mind-boggling that so many marketers are spending so many hundreds of millions of discretionary dollars, each with so little regular contact, communication and tactical accountability among the media officer, the CEO, the COO and the board. When the legendary Phil Guarascio was General Motors’ vice president of corporate media and advertising in the ’80s and ‘90s, he had that kind of contact with GM CEO Roger Smith. Where are our Guarascios today?

Take time to learn about transparency. Knowledge is power here, so don’t be afraid to look.  Read what's out there: the K2 report, the Ebiquity recommendations, the positions of the ANA and 4A’s. Talk about transparency with your peers. Read your contracts. Understand them. Talk about the issue with your vendors and your agencies. Talk about it with your bosses. Don’t hide from it and hope that it will go away. It won’t.

Make your point of view and position explicit with your partners and clients. Media independent Dave Smith of Mediasmith just published his agency’s position on transparency.  Others should, too. No better way to deal with transparency than to be transparent about your transparency.

Apply common sense. If marketers pays their agency below cost, they should realize that there’s going to be a big disconnect in their relationship and shouldn’t be too surprised that their “agent” isn’t acting so much like one anymore.

Apply The Golden Rule. Do unto others as you would others do unto you. It works pretty well in raising kids and building respectful societies. It should work here, too.

What do you think? What are your keys to dealing with transparency?

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