Every agency, particularly an independent, needs a point of differentiation. For the first time, Levelwing is opening up about its approach to embracing transparency and how an "open-book" policy has helped the digital shop grow and manage big event ad opportunities for clients, including 12 Super Bowls and three Olympics.
"We are pioneering a new way," explains Steve Parker, Jr., CEO-cofounder, Levelwing. "Our approach is to always align with the best interests of our clients at all times."
Levelwing provides "complete transparency" for all the work the agency manages on behalf of its clients. “It is our belief that you [the client] should own your media accounts, analytics tools and billing," says Parker. "We are simply your trusted partner that delivers within the framework and guardrails that you provide us."
This open-book policy means the agency engages the publisher or tech platform to negotiate and place media, but then invites the client to "own" the financials and pay the bill directly.
Moreover, the Charleston, South Carolina agency also puts all business in the client's name. "If we set up an account at Adobe, it's in their name, not ours."
Data is also entirely owned by the client, providing "full access at all moments," says Parker. The agency allows these companies to make their data accessible to all vendor and additional partners, based on their preferences.
The agency receives a copy of every bill to assist the client with revenue reconciliation, but with transparency should come an ability to create a road map for standardization, reporting, tracking and tagging, says Parker. "Taking the time to do this creates fundamentals that allow for complete trust in people, process, and performance."
Parker estimates about 75% of clients take advantage of this policy. Many typically set up an automatic billing process, such as Google or Facebook direct accounts. The remaining 25% usually don't have the ability or desire to handle finances in-house, so Levelwing provides these services.
Until now, Levelwing has kept this transparent strategy private to help win over clients with a unique process. Now, Parker is listening to the broader conversation within the industry. He believes his agency has a great case study as to how transparency can work across Adland.
"This topic has been the dark web discussion for years," asserts Parker. “I would say 99% of agencies, at some level, lack some form of transparency — intentionally or not.” He concedes that even Levelwing used to lack transparency in its process.
"Nearly every agency, small or large, and every agency holding company, they lack true transparency," he says. "Yes, this is true today as you read this. And yes, they will say different with a bold lie or convincing platform argument right to your face. Yet we all know the cold truth that lurks underneath the black-box software, internal trading desks and pre-or-post market commitments."
“We believe ownership is and should be [the client’s] at all times. In fact, you may audit us at any time per your needs, curiosities or requirement”, he says.
Ultimately, this type of open partnership means Levelwing is doubling down on its output, not relying on interdependence to prolong agency-client relationships. "Our clients remain in full control of everything, and that is how it should be."