For the past few years, the focus has been on agencies, publishers and technology platforms that raised serious questions about marketers’ ability to trust their budgets would be invested in ethical and appropriate ways.
This has resulted in a near-seismic shift in accounts from one agency to another and deeper scrutiny into all aspects of the relationship between various players across the advertising ecosystem. There is no question changes needed to happen. There’s also no question that the changes won’t end there.
Many CMOs, for instance, have rightfully concluded that transparency only comes with greater control -- which means being more hands-on with campaigns and programs. In some cases, transparency goals sparked much-needed reflections about what marketers should farm out, and what should remain closer to home.
This includes everything from moving programmatic purchasing in-house and having greater involvement in mitigating brand safety risks to directly developing some of their own creative assets.
Fortunately, efforts to bring greater transparency into advertising and marketing does not mean brands are holding back or ignoring the opportunities in front of them. Recent data shows an overall increase in digital marketing spending by more than 12% next year. The level of investment, however, may be less important than where -- and to whom -- it is allocated.
While any senior marketing executive needs to be mindful of budget and look for reductions wherever it makes sense, no brand can afford to have transparency come at the cost of decreasing performance. The best marketers will not be surprised to learn that, on average, there is a 54% correlation, per eMarketer, between lower CPMs and ad fraud.
Then there is what some describe as a “tech tax” in the programmatic space, when the spend flow been advertiser and publisher becomes (to put it mildly) somewhat opaque.
As with any sea change in business, there may be a tendency to act quickly and take short-cuts in an effort to move away from past mistakes. The need to make the right investment with the right partners, though, has never been more important.
ROI and results will ultimately come down to paying for ads that get paired with the right inventory and are measured against meaningful business outcomes, rather than having budgets disappear in a void of service fees. This is not the time to “get by” or “make do” with vendors that can’t deliver the highest value per dollar.
Success will come from not only asking smart questions about transparency, but about how transparency can translate into greater reach and engagement. These are the same metrics that have mattered to brands long before kickback scandals stole the spotlight.
Transparency in advertising and marketing is ultimately about more than doing the right thing. It’s about doing the best things for marketers, consumers and the sector as a whole.