Much has been said about the rising concerns around agency transparency. Just last week The Wall Street Journal reported that the Justice Department is investigating whether advertising agencies manipulated the bidding process for contracts to favor in-house production. Coming after the ANA’s revelation of non-transparent business practices, Facebook’s overestimation of video engagement and Japanese mega-agency Dentsu’s apology for overcharging over 111 customers for online ads—there is clearly a flaw in the advertising ecosystem.
I don’t want to talk about fault or shed negative light on advertising agencies. Several have pointed out that there is a fundamental disconnect in the advertiser-agency relationship that is perpetuating this behavior. More personally, many of us at Beckon come from agency backgrounds (myself included), and we understand the struggle. We also view agencies as our partners and believe that we can use data collectively to collaborate better and do better marketing.
The issue is this. Unless we start taking ownership of our performance data, the threat will continue to grow in magnitude and complexity. This is not an agency problem. This is our problem. We are accountable and must demand—and work for—transparency.
So how do we get transparency? Many experts agree it starts with data and insight—specifically knowing where marketing dollars are spent and what the business results are. We at Beckon believe this cannot happen without a source of truth for marketing data—an integrated, clean, normalized marketing performance dataset created and maintained objectively, by a neutral party. This means going straight to the source for the raw data rather than relying on others’ analysis, and owning the data that should be ours in the first place.
Once we have transparency, we can get to work. We can improve the relationships with our agencies and do better—together. This could include setting new standards, making contractual changes, and putting in place internal resources/processes dedicated to identifying fraud. This could include setting success metrics that align with finding and acting on key insights, unlocking new sources of valuable data and driving business results. And it could include rethinking definitions for our KPIs, rethinking what to bring in-house or rethinking how we compensate our agencies.
Transparency is within arm’s reach but we have to change our behavior and expectations in order to get to it. If you’re interested in how we’ve worked with some of our customers to support transparency across their organizations, we’d love to chat!