Can marketers trust agencies again?

Nic Halley

Nic is founder and managing director of Mindbox, a specialist digital marketing and media consultancy based in Sydney.

 

Unless you’ve been marketing under a rock, you’ll probably have questioned whether your media agencies are offering you transparency.  

While some suspect practices have come to light, it’s important that brands don’t throw the proverbial baby out with the bathwater. Digital media and programmatic present strong opportunities for brands to develop long-term impactful campaigns.  

So, the question arises, can marketers and agencies regain trust and moreover, how do they do so?  

Well to begin with, the issues are avoidable – there are still a number that do industry leading work with full visibility.  

To identify the diamonds in the rough, marketers need to educate themselves on the common practices that have been observed, to ensure they are confident in their partnerships. Beyond the obvious eye watering hidden mark ups, agencies have been known to:  

  • Conceal benefits from value banks. Agencies will bulk buy in exchange for additional advertising space and lower prices. While there may be a reduced rate passed on to the client, the real value is kept by the agency when they on-sell this free media.
  • Purchase from their own networks, setting an inflated floor price – for example, the actual CPM is $3, but floor price is set at $6 CPM. They then communicate a reasonable mark up on this and the client feels that they are getting transparency, but the majority of the agency’s revenue is hidden.
  • Sell on client data.
  • Apply a ‘set and forget’ mentality, giving big accounts to juniors who are ill equipped to be valuable brand custodians, or to put in place the methodical approach that ensures successful work. 

By understanding the malpractices of the past and digital media more generally, marketers can oversee their agencies with confidence, knowing what to expect an agency to charge. Simply put, you need to know if a deal sounds too good to be true.  

The second and most important step in (re-)establishing trust is to redefine the relationship, so the marketer and brand own their data IP. Yes this means taking on ownership of the data and the figuring out the numbers, but this will provide full transparency on cost, placement and efficiency of digital media. More importantly it allows brands to better collaborate with expert agencies whilst providing visibility, allowing both parties to better focus on the job at hand  

The client holds the keys to the castle and provides access for the agency to manage it. This can extend to the client bringing the adtech which clears up a number of issues straight away, as the media invoices are sent direct, providing accountability and transparency.  

This creates a win-win for all parties, enabling media buying and planning partners to focus on specialisation and disruptive thinking, staying at the forefront of changing marketing solutions. The focus is results, not managing clips through the supply chain.  

Additionally, a truly collaborative and transparent approach goes beyond campaign to campaign thinking. Ongoing data can be used to track engagement levels over consumer journeys’ and lifetimes, predict trends in target market behaviour, influence creative content and help build stronger, bespoke attribution models – it’s not about one ad to one user one at a time  

This approach helps give brands more control of their data, which is a vital resource for making robust decisions across activities including product development, business strategy and future campaigns. Data IP can be used to help the company grow and in-housing it needn’t be an issue of trust, it’s just one of those things that shouldn’t be outsourced.  

The question here isn’t really whether marketers can trust agencies, because in most cases, they can. The question is can they gain the knowledge and understanding of digital marketing to redefine what they trust their agency with.

Tags: digital marketing, agency relationships

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