Commentary

Agency-Client Trust Levels Hit A New Low

It has been over two years since the Association of National Advertisers issued its transparency report, which outlined numerous problems plaguing the relationship between media agencies and clients. 

And trust levels are even worse now than they were then, according to a new study by media and marketing consultant ID Comms. 

The ID Comms 2018 Global Media Transparency Survey has found that just 10% of advertisers rate levels of trust with their agency partners as high or very high. By contrast, the number who believe that trust is low has shifted from 29% to 40%, while the number who believe it is average has fallen by 12%. 

ID Comms described its latest findings as “troubling.” Since the initial report, conducted by K2 Intelligence on behalf of the ANA, ID Comms writes that advertisers have worked hard to improve their media knowledge and take greater control over how their ad budgets are invested. Many have adjusted contracts with existing suppliers or held pitches that demand greater transparency as a condition of participation. 

The good news per the ID Comms survey is that as a result of these efforts, many are much more positive about the future levels of trust with a 20% increase in the number of agencies and advertisers who expect trust to increase “a little” or “a lot” over the coming 12 months. 

“The vast majority of both agencies and advertisers agree that a close, trusted relationship is likely to lead to better marketing performance but, sadly, right now levels of trust are much lower than they should be. This is reducing the ability of media partners to use their skills and knowledge to help advertisers grow their businesses,” said Susy Pyzer-Knapp, Consultant at ID Comms. 

The survey was conducted in June-July of this year and results are based on 232 responses from advertisers across a diverse range of sectors and geographies investing more than $25 billion on media around the world. Respondents worked in a mix of roles across marketing, media and procurement. Agency respondents represented all the major agency holding groups and many independent media agencies. 

The 2018 survey found that transparency is still a critical component in building trust and an increased number of agency respondents now agree with this. That seems like just plain common sense. Let’s face it, transparency in this context means being open and honest and for an agency that would equate to disclosing, for example, rebates it received from a media company based on the heft of the spending delivered by its clients. 

The number of agency respondents who agreed that issues around transparency have a very high influence on trust has tripled in the last two years, reaching 35% of agency respondents, per this latest survey. It does make you wonder what alternative reality the other 65% are living in, but whatever. 

Among both advertisers and agency respondents, the four-highest ranked areas of transparency that drive trust have not changed since 2016; how the agency manages rebates, how the agency makes money, how the agency trades with media vendors and how the agency uses group buying/ share deals. 

Not surprisingly, it’s all about the money.

1 comment about "Agency-Client Trust Levels Hit A New Low".
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  1. Bill Duggan from ANA, September 18, 2018 at 5:18 p.m.

    It's relevant to point out that the 2016 ID Comms survey was conducted in April 2016 -- two months before the ANA commissioned study from K2 Intelligence was released, which found that numerous non-transparent business practices, including cash rebates to media agencies, were pervasive in the U.S. media ad buying ecosystem. So it should not be a surprise that trust levels between clients and media agencies is worse now in 2018 than it was in April 2016 as the industry now has knowledge of the K2 findings. 

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