Well, at the risk of repeating the mantra, those who are not so sure should check out Sky's comments when asked why they chose to retain MediaCom. They are featured in Campaign today. Or maybe that could equally be well phrased as why the satellite tv and telecom giant chose not to replace MediaCom with either Carat or Zenith. What made MediaCom stick out as a keeper?
Apparently the headline answer from Sky was, to quote from Campaign, "industry-leading standards for the transparency and accountability of media-buying practices."
The big point for me, other than transparency being the lynchpin for retaining a GBP427m brief, is the closeness of the word "accountability."
Let me explain. Transparency has often seemed, at least to me, to be only half the story. Agencies can promise to be more transparent about how they spend an advertiser's revenue, but if it isn't put to the best use, as far as the budget holder is concerned, what does that mean?
OK -- so with transparency they know who was involved in the supply chain. They know the names of the ad-tech companies -- and maybe even their slice of revenue -- that helped ensure media went to the right site for the optimum price and had the best chance of being seen by a human, and not against porn or extremism.
But do they always know the motive, the reason why? This, for me, is why the term accountability is so important in what Sky said. It goes beyond saying MediaCom has a budget of x and must deliver x + y.
When you add accountability to the mix, you're not only looking at the result, but why decisions were taken to get there. You effectively tackle the issue of why budget was put toward each media owner, as well as the mix between different media types. And there, my friends, we have the issue of the rebate nicely acknowledged.
As a massive media owner itself, Sky will know all about the enticements of media companies offering discounts on volume. These make it very tempting for the media buyer to ensure they hit the required targets and quite often lead to pressure to steer spend the way of a media owner who needs more budget pushed their way to earn those lower rates.
It is often acknowledged that these deals can work in the advertiser's favour, in the form of lower-cost inventory. They can also turn against them, however, if spend doesn't follow the optimum route but instead is syphoned off to hit targets with a discounting media owner.
So, without accountability, transparency can mean nothing. It can end up as a conversation that here is where you money went -- it's all there in the Excel sheet. Unless there's an element of why those decisions were made and whether the advertiser of the buyer's interests came first, it's a hollow conversation.
Transparency without accountability tells only half the story, and advertisers clearly want to be part of the entire conversation now. Not just the "how" bit, but the "why" part too.