Share Of Measurement Voice

When it was founded in 2009, I gave "Madison Avenue" top billing for backing the Coalition of Innovative Media Measurement (CIMM), because members of the six agency holding companies -- and two of their biggest clients, Procter & Gamble and Unilever -- were the dominant voice of its initial 14-company membership.

Fifteen years later, there is no pure-play advertiser among the 81 member companies listed on its website, although one trade association representing them -- the Association of National Advertisers (ANA) is -- and five agencies (Dentsu, GroupM, IPG Mediabrands, Omnicom Media Group and Publicis Groupe), as well as the American Association of Advertising Agencies (4As) are too.

The rest are companies that supply either media, tech, research or consulting and analytics services to the "demand-side" of the advertising marketplace.



By my calculation, that means the ad industry's share of CIMM voice has eroded from a dominant 57% share when it launched to less than 9% currently.

That marginal share of ad industry voice was evident during an annual CIMM summit in New York City Wednesday, where only three of the 44 executives sitting on stage were from agencies. And not one was from an advertiser.

To be clear, the content of the summit itself was fantastic. Despite the lack of buy-side representation, the CIMM team put together an impressive agenda of both speakers and subject matter tackling incredibly important issues for today, as well as tomorrow.

The content was so rich and dense, in fact, that I abandoned an attempt to write a "reporter's notebook" column summing it up, and instead chose to focus on a bigger meta theme about who is dominating the ad industry's voice on the most pressing media measurement issues of today -- and tomorrow -- though I plan to drill down into some of those specific discussions in the days that follow.

The dominance of the supply-side voice -- both media inventory suppliers, as well as research and widget suppliers -- was also evident from the start of Wednesday's summit, which kicked off with a conversation between Interactive Advertising Bureau (IAB) CEO David Cohen and John Halley, President of Paramount Advertising, who actually hosted the event in an auditorium at his 1515 Broadway HQ. (For those tuning in via a Zoom interface, they used a CBS link.)

Halley, the current chairman of the IAB, and Cohen touched on important issues including increasing pressure from regulators, the challenge of "identity resolution," and the need to come up with "lanes of common denomination so that we can understand media value," and frankly, that makes me nervous, because it's another in a long line of examples of the supply-wide setting standards, certifying media measurement methods and suppliers.

It follows on the formidable spade work by companies including Paramount, as well as NBCUniversal, Fox and Warner Bros. Discovery, which also happen to own OpenAP, which made the biggest push yet for a cohesive supply-side push to control the process. I'm speaking about OpenAP's creation of the U.S. joint industry committee (JIC) to "certify" new transactional currencies for the advertising marketplace.

"So, we created this joint industry committee last year and announced it at Cannes. It was very fun," Paramount Senior Vice President-Advanced Advertising Travis Scoles said during a presentation updating the JIC's status at the CIMM summit.

While he didn't point out that was also when OpenAP began inviting agencies to participate, which they clearly have -- and by all accounts -- are incredibly involved in.

The problem with the U.S. JIC is that, unlike JICs in other parts of the world, it is not tripartite -- meaning it doesn't include the voice of advertisers on it -- which is another indication of the diminishing share of advertiser voice in media measurement and currency-setting process in recent years.

As I noted in a profile I wrote celebrating OpenAP as MediaPost's "Supplier of the Year" last year, the composition of the U.S. JIC is a problem for several reasons, two of which were coincidentally identified by the ANA as being the two biggest issues confronting the ad industry overall: Information asymmetry and misaligned incentives.

The certification of multiple market currencies for spending ad dollars on media increases -- not decreases -- the prospect for information asymmetry, a phenomenon that happens in markets in which traders have access to different levels of information about marketplace values.

Does anyone remember when there were two TV ratings services (Nielsen and Arbitron) -- or two magazine measurement services MRI and Simmons) back in the day? Let's just say it wasn't exactly symmetrical.

With regard to misaligned incentives, I sometimes wonder whose interests agencies represent in the media marketplace these days, including their role on the U.S. JIC.

Put aside question marks about agency media-buying transparency, rebates, kickbacks, or indirect payments they may receive from media suppliers, when I talk to any big agency these days, they usually refer to media suppliers as "partners," not vendors, reps, sales organizations, etc. I mean to me, it literally sounds like they're in bed together, not necessarily with their clients, which in the old days would be referred to as an agency's partner.

During one of the CIMM summit sessions, one of the three agency execs participating -- Havas Senior Vice President-Group Director of Investment Laurie Crowley -- was asked what she would really like to have for new ad market currencies. "Yeah, can I have it for free?," she said, adding: "Can you just pay for it? That would be great."

Would it, though?

Speaking of not-so-free lunches, during one I had with the CMO of a consumer brands marketer earlier this week, he confided that these days "agencies make two-thirds of their revenue from" media suppliers.

He couldn't back that number up with a verifiable source, and I'm not even sure what to do with that number, because putting aside the daisy chain of indirect or direct payments from media, the ad-agency model originally was conceived on agencies deriving 100% of their revenue from media -- you know, the 15% commission.

Look, I'm not saying agencies are working for their suppliers, but they definitely are working with them in ways they never would have in the past, because when you come right down to it, they are -- both agencies and their media partners -- aligned on the same incentives: the KPIs they deliver to advertisers.

To some extent, that is just as much the advertisers' fault as it is the agencies' or the media sales organizations' -- and for the life of me, I don't understand why advertisers have conceded any role in setting their own trading currencies, why they aren't directly participating on the U.S. JIC, and why they no longer are members of CIMM, etc.

I know I often sound like the old guy, but I do think industry memory accounts for something, if for no better reason than to look back and to see how things have evolved and changed -- sometimes for very logical and practical reasons.

As I've written before, I think some of the change is due to the way the culture of digital media-buying evolved over the past quarter century in which suppliers routinely graded their own homework, certified their own forms of measurement -- heck, even certified the agencies they'd do business with.

And now that digital is two-thirds of every dollar bought by agencies, it makes sense that they would have shifted their organizational mindsets that way. My only question is whether it is better than what they were doing before: when agencies explicitly worked for their clients; and when clients were more directly involved in setting the currencies they use to pay the media.

One of the first media researchers I met when I started covering the ad industry and media-buying was Jim Spaeth, who worked for Kraft/General Foods in the early 80s (he later went on to run the Advertising Research Foundation, and ultimately founded Sequent Partners).

Over the years I interacted with other influential client-side media researchers, Procter & Gamble's Tim McConnell to name one.

I'm not sure why direct client involvement and oversight of that process has devolved to agencies and their suppliers, but as I noted in the opening with CIMM's transition, I should point out that the Advertising Research Foundation -- which also happens to own CIMM now -- also evolved from a joint venture of the ANA and the 4As into something representing a broader swath of media and research suppliers.

I'm not saying that's necessarily bad, but I do think the lack of direct client influence raises the prospects for both information asymmetry and misaligned incentives along the way.

In fact, the only truly tripartite entities serving the needs of media currency measurement are the Media Rating Council and Geopath.

And the only place I see significant direct client participation in conversations surrounding media measurement and currencies, is not CIMM or the ARF, but something that is not an official industry trade body, but maybe should be: I-COM. And if you've never been to one of its summits -- and if you're serious about what clients actually think about media measurement -- I recommend you attend one.

As I said at the onset, I don't think CIMM is doing a bad job. I just don't know that it's doing it for the correct stakeholder, and that it's gotten too influenced by suppliers, and not enough about the most important end-user.

There was a lot of great content at Wednesday's summit, and I'm still working my way through it.

So I might as well end on what I consider to be one of, if not the best sound bite of the day:

“The actual currency we trade on here is U.S. dollars," Paramount's Scoles quipped during his JIC update presentation. "That’s how we get paid. That’s how we pay for things. That’s what we report our earnings in... but right now, we just need to essentially understand: is this data good enough to underpin a dollar-based transaction.”

On that note, let's remember that the actual role of the U.S. JIC -- at least right now -- is certifying currencies a group of media-buyers and sellers deem to be "transactional," not necessarily the highest quality research for measuring the value of media audiences to advertisers.

5 comments about "Share Of Measurement Voice".
Check to receive email when comments are posted.
  1. Ed Papazian from Media Dynamics Inc, April 4, 2024 at 12:57 p.m.

    Joe, you make a very important point about the lack of advertiser representation in CIMM---and it ties in with  what I have been saying about the lack of advertiser involvement---to say nothing of funding---when it comes to developing the ideal national TV rating service. Clearly, the CMOs have walked away from important media issues that affect not only how their time is bought but also how it is targeted. Instead, they support the upfront, non-targeted, CPM-driven, futures market buying approach and take no interest in attentiveness---which would for the first time have given them a read on who watches their ad messages---plus a lot more.

    Why is this so?
    Who knows?

    But it goes a long way to explain why the agencies are "going along" with the sellers---who are now firmly in control.And, franlkly, more power to them---the sellers, that is. If advertisers----who are the only ones who can motivate their agencies to take a stronger, pro-active stance---can't be bothered, then why should the agencies---who are judged mainly by CPM chomping client bean counters-----rise up and challenge the sellers?

  2. Tony Jarvis from Olympic Media Consultancy, April 4, 2024 at 1:26 p.m.

    Amen Ed.  Kudos to you, Joe for pointing out the increasing vendor bias of CIMM since the retirement of Jane Clarke and its take over by ARF.  BTW:  It's Ted McConnell, brilliant former P&G exec., who sagely commented a year ago on a Media Post Op Ed, "When is  JIC not a JIC?" -  "It's beyond me why big advertisers are not fighting for a real JIC"

  3. Jack Wakshlag from Media Strategy, Research & Analytics, April 4, 2024 at 2:49 p.m.

    Todays largest media companies, like Google, grade their own homework and have grown exponentially, thanks to advertiser acceptance, anyway.  The rules seem to have changed and though some may not like it, that's the fact.  I wish I could be more helpful and smart enough to suggest a solution.  This race to the bottom has worried me because the result is less effective advertising -- and that should concern vendors, agencies and advertisers who are wasting more money than ever. 

  4. Darrin Stephens from McMann & Tate, April 4, 2024 at 3:15 p.m.

    Not only do agencies not want to pay for any research alternatives to Nielsen, they barely want to pay Nielsen.

    Additionally, agencies don't want to pay employees to do the job. Through attrition and outright downsizing, agency researchers have become an endangered species. As hinted, they just ask vendors to do their research for them. Really.

  5. John Grono from GAP Research, April 4, 2024 at 8:49 p.m.

    Very erudite post and comments.

    In my years of AU media research and measurement experience we tend to have an apparently similar ennui from the advertisers.   But when you think about it, the research and measurement systems are mainly paid from by money that was originally that of the advertisers.

    There is a tendency for media agency CEOs to raise issues with their advertising client CEOs as to what is needed and wanted, and to see if there is a concurrence of needs and opinions.   Then when the research committees meet, the media agency attendees generally speak (unofficially) on behalf of the advertiser and the agency, providing a 'louder voice'.

Next story loading loading..