More than a year after the biggest media sellers began certifying their own advertising currencies -- and months after they organized a joint industry committee that media-buyers were invited to participate in to further certify others -- I finally got a chance to ask them this question in a public setting:
"Why has the demand-side capitulated on currency?
The setting was MediaPost's recent Outfront Forum in New York City, and it was during the Q&A portion of my colleague Wayne Friedman's opening panel on the upcoming 2023-24 upfront negotiations.
Apologies that it has taken me so long to come back to this anecdote, but we've had a couple of weeks of intense upfront, newfront and JIC-related things to cover and this has been my first opportunity to come back to the question.
I heard a couple of things in response to it, especially that media buyers don't like being called out on stage for capitulating about marketplace issues. Naturally, they denied it, and went on to send even more confusing signals about what their positions are -- and their belief in what the JIC -- is actually supposed to accomplish.
GroupM's Mike Fisher was most vocal about it, and after denying that the sell-side has so far been controlling the narrative about the JIC's purpose and goals, explained GroupM's policy on it:
"It is not meant to establish a currency. It is meant to establish — at least in GroupM’s opinion — it’s meant to establish a minimum standard that both the buy and the sell side should be willing to accept," he said, adding, "At least in year one — of what we believe [is] new, better quality, more accountable and transparent measurement can be for the ecosystem."
If I understood Fisher correctly, that sounds to me like it's the opposite of certifying currencies, and more about establishing floors for which they can even be considered. And if that's the case, my follow up question is why hasn't anyone been saying that to date, because going back to the sell-side-controlled narrative, that's not what sales organizations have been saying for the past year about their own, individual certifications of suppliers like iSpot or VideoAmp, or in recent months about the JIC's certification goals.
If I've been hearing that narrative correctly, they've been explicitly stating that they are certifying them as tradable currencies.
"The whole purpose of this is not to bless a specific vendor or currency or methodology," Fisher continued to clarify in response to my question, adding, "It's to make clear to the marketplace what we as buyers and sellers want out of currencies long-term."
One of the reasons I'm coming back to that with today's "RTBlog," is to amplify that so that it is perfectly clear, because it is different than what I've been hearing from the sell-side over the past few weeks, including during the JIC's upfront event the other week.
They continue to talk about certification like it's minting new currencies and they've even gone so far as to bash the market's actual, existing "legacy" currency for endorsing the industry's long-standing self-regulatory standard -- Media Rating Council accreditation -- as "weaponizing" a process.
This, of course, is not the first time I've heard such topsy turvy logic or mixed signals coming out of the mouths of both sides during this point heading into an upfront negotiation. This will be the 41st one I've covered.
Dentsu Media's David Sederbaum went on to clarify that "just because the sell-side might be the most vocal, doesn't mean they're controlling the narrative," even though that's precisely how one controls the narrative, at least in terms of the public marketplace, how the trade press covers it, and how people may or may not think because of it.
Sederbaum confided that the true goals of the JIC are something the buy-side talks about "on a daily basis internally." And at least one time publicly on the stage of a MediaPost event.
"I don't know what we've capitulated at this point," Horizon Media's Mike O'Connor said closing the discussion on my capitulation question.
"What tends to happen -- last year and this year -- is there is a huge build up of the conversation around currency, and then as you think about operationalizing -- when it comes down to actual negotiations, there will be movement, but the majority of what will be transacted on is Nielsen legacy currency."
Joe, as you know I've been saying that the so-called "JIC" is not trying to establish alternate "currencies" for some months now. It's refreshing to see that, finally, some of the agency people are speaking up and confirming this---to me---rather obvious fact. The sellers have always maintained that it will be up to each seller---and buyer---what, if any, of the "certified" alternative currencies" will be utilized---meaning that they will not be used as a standard which, in turn , means that they can not be considered as the industry's time buying and selling "currency". There can be only one "cuurrency"and that will be a measure of "audience".