The latest figures from the WFA show that a majority of the world's biggest brands, some 70%, have changed media agencies in a bid to regain control of their spending. OK -- so we're only talking about 35 global brands here, because the bar is set high on advertising across the planet, but between them these brands account for a $30bn ad spend each year. So that is a lot of budget being moved to new agencies.
The main reasons are focussed on exactly the issues you would imagine. The WFA researchers pick out brand safety, viewability, ad fraud and transparency. In fact, of the familiar list, transparency comes out on top as the prime issue for 47% of those surveyed. As for an emerging issue, more than two in three cited that the biggest new threat is coming from brand safety.
Perhaps more worrisome for agencies is that brands aren't just jumping from one provider to another -- they're improving their own capabilities. This was confirmed by two in three of those surveyed, according to Marketing Week, beefing up their brand's internal team, such as investing in programmatic talent. However, for 40% of brands, this is extending further into improving in-house capabilities to tackle the issues they are challenged by. At the top of that list is investing in talent and tools to defeat ad fraud.
In addition, more than half the global advertisers surveyed are now working with anti-fraud partners, and more than a third have developed their own viewability metric by which they buy and pay for display.
After a couple of years of the challenges facing brands being discussed at conferences and speeches from the marketing heads of P&G and Unilever raising it to an everyday topic of conversation, it appears that the time for action has come. Instead of transparency, fraud-free and safer advertising being a direction of travel they were being taken on, brands are starting to take more of a front seat position.
This is not surprising -- not when you consider that viewability rates in the UK hover just under the 50% level and that fraud takes a massive bite into any investment a brand puts into its media strategy. And then there's the spectre of famous brands being embarrassed by advertising against hateful, extremist content, prompting the well-publicised boycott of YouTube.
For these issues to have shown little sign of improvement, despite the billions the big guys invest through their agencies, you can't really be surprised to learn that problems are leading to reviews and prompting brands to tool up internally to improve their responses to problems that simply show little or no sign of being improved by their agency.
For agencies the takeaway is clear. These issues are no so well discussed and understood at brands that they are willing to take action to tackle them themselves. This surely has must put agencies on notice to improve their viewability and ad fraud performances and work on a more transparent way of working with clients and accounting for how that work is charged for.
When brands become front seat drivers, agencies have to realise it's time to up their game.