Agencies And Advertisers -- Where Has The Trust Gone?

Sometimes the comments from industry insiders are as interesting as the report they are used in. The ID Comms 2018 Global Media Transparency Survey, which has just been released today, is not a comfortable read for adland execs. The comments that accompany its main findings, from advertisers and agencies that took part in the research, makes for an even worse read.

The main takeaway is that two years on from rebates being probed and transparency becoming an everyday topic of debate in advertising circles, trust has actually gone down. That means the advertiser and agency relationship is now less trusting than it was two years ago. 

To be more precise, only one in ten respondents said their relationship with their agency or advertising client was trusting. This means that 40% admit there is a low level of trust. This is a pretty high figure on its own but, when you compare it with the 29% who rated trust levels as low two years ago, it's quite a leap. Similarly, 40% think trust is just "average" compared to 52% in 2016.

The needle on trust is turning in the wrong direction, and the issue this raises is brought into sharp focus by more than a half of those surveyed revealing they felt a good trusting relationship lead to better work. 

The elephant in the room is transparency, with only around one in twenty who think it is not an important issue. The usual suspects are rated by the research, with rebates coming out on top of the areas which cause a lack of trust, closely followed by how agencies make their money, how they share work out and how they work with media suppliers are all there too in the top.

Talking things through and bringing them out in the open is usually the sort of grown-up attitude that smooths over relationships, isn't it? Here, we seem to have just opened a wound that is a little too sore right now to heal.

That is most definitely what comes from the comments that accompany the report. They come from advertisers who remind agencies there can be no trust until they reform and agencies that remind brands that trust is a two-way street.

It's fair to say that the media agencies feel annoyed at having to continually re-pitch for contracts when they're only halfway through the contracted term and have no way to guess what they will be paying for media in five years' time. They feel embroiled in a constant slog of pitching and re-pitching and taking on huge risk, should their price projections prove to be unrealistic.

It's also fair to say that brands have had it with not knowing what happens to the rebates their budgets earn. What is worse, they have good reason to suspect that agencies are buying media to earn these rebates, meaning they get a bad deal twice. They don't get the rebate, yet their budget is steered toward inventory that will earn it, rather than serve their latest campaign.

I suspect that in a couple of years when ID Comms looks at this again they will find an improvement, because agencies are just too realistic not to keep on annoying brands that demand transparency.

For now, however, it's fair to say that the hornet's nest is still in the process of being poked, and sentiments are running high. 

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