Join our list of informed global advertisers seeking to improve the financial stewardship of their marketing investment. Click Here to Subscribe

Marketing MathTM

Category Archives: Marketing

Will AI Render Media Agencies Obsolete?

11 Sep

artificial_intelligence

Artificial intelligence (AI) is already reshaping how advertising is developed, planned and placed. The marketing applications being envisioned and adopted by agencies, consultancies, publishers and advertisers are nothing short of remarkable.

From the onset of “Big Data” it stood to reason that the concept of predictive analysis, the act of mining diverse sets of data to generate recommendations wouldn’t be far behind. Layer on natural language processing, which converts text into structured data, and it is clear to see that “deep learning” is on the verge of revolutionizing the ad industry. As it stands, algorithms are currently optimizing bids for media buying, utilizing custom and syndicated data to match audience desires (or at least experiences) with available inventory.

Effective, efficient, automated methodologies for sorting through vast volumes of data to evaluate and establish patterns that reflect customer behavior for use in segmenting audiences and customizing message construction and delivery holds obvious promise.

So, what does this mean for media agencies? Will they be at the forefront of automation technology? Or will they be swept away by the consultancies and ad tech providers that are already investing here?

If media agencies desire to remain in control as the industry evolves, there are real challenges that they will have to address to remain viable:

  • Re-establish role as “trusted advisor” with the advertiser community. Recent concerns over transparency, unsavory revenue generation practices and a failure to pro-actively safeguard advertisers’ media investments from fraud and from running in inappropriate environments have created serious client/ agency relationship concerns.
  • Attract, train and retain top-level talent to re-staff media planning and buying departments. The focus will need to be on bridging the gap between developing, and applying automation technology and providing high-level consulting support focused on brand growth to their clients. Presently, media agencies are not effectively competing for talent, whether in the context of compensation and or personal and career development options being offered by their non-traditional competitors.
  • Provide a framework for addressing the compensation conundrum. Whether this is in the form of cost-based or performance-based fees tied to project outcomes, commissions or hybrid remuneration systems, tomorrow’s successful media agencies will need to establish clear, compelling compensation systems. These systems will need to reflect value propositions that will differentiate them from an expanded base of competitors, while offsetting (to some extent) non-transparent sources of revenue that many media shops have come to rely on in recent years.

This will not be an easy path for media agencies, particularly for those that are hampered by legacy systems, processes and management perspectives that may limit their ability to more broadly envision and ultimately, assist client organizations addressing their needs and expectations.

Either way, the race is on, as management consulting firms are acquiring various marketing and digital media specialist firms and as media agencies raid the consultancies for personnel to build out their strategic consulting capabilities. The key question will likely be, “Which business model holds the greatest promise, in the eyes of the Chief Marketing Officer, for improving brand performance?

 

 

 

 

 

Economic Growth Projections Raise Concerns for Ad Industry

25 Aug

economyAdvertising agencies are finding that organic growth will be a difficult objective to achieve in the near-term.

One contributing factor comes in the form of marketing spending constraints on the part of advertisers. Why? Organizations are feeling pressure to control costs in the wake of lack luster market conditions that are limiting growth and reducing margins.

The key economic indicator driving advertiser concern is “slow growth” which is impacting many sectors of the economy:

  • GDP growth of 1.2% during the 1st quarter and 2.6% in the 2nd quarter (short of the sustained 3%+ growth rate promised by the White House).
  • U.S. retail sales, excluding auto and gasoline, rose 0.5% in July ’17.
  • Fast-Casual restaurant sales fell more than 3% in the first quarter of 2017.
  • U.S. automotive sales have fallen for seven straight months (Jan. – Jul.).
  • Homebuilder confidence sank, posting HMI’s lowest reading in over 6 mos.

Two CPG giants have announced dramatic moves, which reflect the nature of this challenge. Unilever signaled its intent to reduce the number of agencies on its roster by 50%, while cutting the quantity of ads produced by 30%. Procter & Gamble Co. indicated that it would trim $2 billion in marketing spend over five years as part of an enterprise wide expense reduction initiative.

It is worth noting that there are motivations beyond “cost reduction” driving these decisions by advertisers. Consider fast-food giant McDonald’s, which earlier this year trimmed the number of agencies that it works with from 60 to fewer than a dozen. Their goals included streamlining marketing and improving the consistency of their output… in addition to reducing expenses.

Unfortunately, the impact of slower spending by advertisers is being felt on Wall Street. According to an August, 24 article in the NY Times, WPP which had earlier cut its revenue forecast saw its share price decline by 10.9% in London, with Omnicom Group and Interpublic Group falling 7% and 6.3% respectively in the U.S. and media stocks are generally lower as a sector.

Interestingly, advertisers have made a conscious decision not to fuel marketing spend to counter slowing sales, but to cut spending to protect margins, which is particularly concerning to the ad agency community.

With increased competition from non-traditional players (i.e. management consulting and technology firms) and the continued fall-out from an industry transparency crisis, the lack of confidence on the part of marketers regarding advertising’s ability to drive profitable revenue growth is certainly a worry.

Whether or not this slowdown in organic growth on the part of ad agencies portends a slump, remains to be seen, but at the very least the macro-economic uncertainty will serve to increase industry volatility. Perhaps the industry can find some solace in the words of Yogi Berra the hall of fame catcher and manager of the New York Yankees: “Slump? I ain’t in no slump… I just ain’t hitting.”

 

 

Does Anyone Really Want Advertisers to Solve the Attribution Dilemma?

14 Mar

conspiracyIt has been decades since the concept of Marketing Mix Modeling (MMM), the forerunner to Attribution Modeling, was introduced. The concept was relatively straightforward, marketers would apply statistical analysis to sales and marketing data to quantify the impact that each element of the marketing mix had in driving brand sales and profit. Once the causal relationship had been modeled, marketers would then be able to accurately forecast outcomes and inform resource allocation decisions.

While the concept may have been straightforward, the solution, for most marketers, has been elusive. Why? First and foremost, MMM has some inherent challenges, particularly when it comes to quantifying the impact of longer term brand equity development tactics versus those focused on short-term sales. Secondly, these models have not fared well in accurately assessing the impact of various media types on outcomes to assist in refining allocation decisions.

Fast forward to the late ‘90’s when we experienced an explosion in online media, the birth of e-commerce and the introduction of “Big Data.” The emergence of digital media and the attendant level of data that marketers where now able to gather led to the launch of “Attribution Modeling.” The goal, to assess and quantify what marketing and media touchpoints influenced an advertiser’s target audience, and to what extent, across the purchase funnel in an effort to optimize media spending across the ever expanding gamut of media alternatives.

While there are multiple variations of attribution models to consider, most marketers have relied on single-source attribution models, often using a “last click” approach which assigns responsibility for an outcome to one event. While simple, this flawed approach to attribution modeling gives too much credit to digital media, at the expense of traditional media and other marketing touchpoints.

Sadly, for advertisers that are doing both MMM and Attribution Modeling, it is rare that the feedback from these related, but different approaches synch. Further, there remain audience delivery measurement (i.e. cross-channel measurement), multi-touch attribution challenges that introduce a layer of complexity that drives up the cost of attribution modeling.

That said, since the onset of these two modeling tools being introduced, the industry has dramatically evolved its data gathering capabilities, enhanced CRM and DMP capabilities, conceived of and launched programmatic media buying, where algorithms have replaced media buyers and now we’re seeing the use of artificial intelligence bots, such as Adgorithms’ “Albert” that can plan and place media and create content. Heady stuff to be sure.

This got the cynic in me thinking; “Well if we can master all of this from a technology perspective, surely we should be able to cost efficiently and effectively master attribution modeling.” That led to idle speculation about whether or not the ad industry really wants advertisers to solve the attribution modeling dilemma?

After all, what if John Wanamaker was wrong? What if more than half of his ad spend was wasted? Remember, the marketing and media choices available to him in the 19th century were considerably more limited than those available to advertisers today. Would accurate attribution models eliminate some of the following marketing and media options from consideration?

  • Television
  • Radio
  • Magazine
  • Newspaper
  • OOH
  • Cinema advertising
  • Product placement
  • Direct mail
  • Email
  • Sponsorships
  • Online display
  • Online video
  • Podcasts
  • Paid search
  • Organic search
  • Mobile
  • Social media
  • Native advertising
  • In-store advertising
  • In-store displays
  • On-package advertising
  • Trade promotions
  • Price promotions
  • Couponing
  • Affinity marketing
  • Affiliate marketing
  • Applications
  • Earned media

Crazy. Right? Reminds me of a quote by the American journalist, Gary Weiss:

“One problem with the focus on speculation is that it tends to promote the growth of the great intellectual cancer of our times: conspiracy theories.”

What do you think…

 

Here We Go Again…

05 Jul

mobilityIs the ad industry about to make the same mistake with mobile as it did with digital? Early on in the platform’s development, it would appear so.

On a positive note, according to new figures from eMarketer, mobile ad spending will surpass $100 billion in spending in 2016, accounting for more than 50% of all digital ad expenditures.

However, there are challenges that need to be addressed. Chiefly, there are a lack of uniform viewability and audience measurement standards in place to validate publisher performance. Today, different publishers utilize a variety of different methods for counting impressions. The key point of contention with mobile is whether or not the publisher delivers on ads rendered or fully loaded as opposed to ad calls.

According to the Media Rating Council, which issued their “mobile viewable ad impression measurement guidelines” this past spring “Each valid viewable impression originates from a valid rendered mobile served impression. In no case should viewable impressions exceed render mobile served impressions counted on a campaign.”

When you look at the numbers, the waste factor in mobile advertising is alarming. In a recent article by Allison Schiff on Adexchanger, entitled; “The Buy Side Doesn’t Want Impressions Counted Before They Hatch” mobile ad server, Medialets, suggested that in a review of “2.7 billion impressions across its mobile ad server” that it found that “roughly 20% of ad calls on the mobile web were “wasted,” aka they don’t ever fully render on a device.”

Concerns over ad delivery and measurement issues related to mobile sound all to familiar to the growing pains suffered by advertisers with online display advertising served to desktop devices. Add in the newness and complexity of the segment, and advertisers would be foolish not to be mindful about their investment in this area.

In the near-term, the best path forward for advertisers to take is to enforce an ad rendered versus ad called verification approach, establish minimum viewability thresholds and utilize only MRC accredited vendors that are willing to adhere to industry standards. It should be noted that while the Interactive Advertising Bureau (IAB) established a 70% viewability threshold for measured impressions in 2015 many mobile platforms are “guaranteeing” viewability levels as high as 100%.

When you consider that according to eMarketer, over 31 million U.S. internet users will only go online using a mobile device in 2016, it is clear that the segments potential is high. Let’s hope that the learning curve is not as steep as the adoption path.

 

 

Why Contract Definitions and Demonstrations are Important

01 Feb

contract complianceFor as long as there have been advertisers and agencies, there have been Client-Agency agreements. Contractual instruments, which are often referred to as “terms of divorce.” This is likely because one of their primary roles is to spell out the guidelines governing how each party must conduct themselves and identifying their respective obligations in the event a relationship is terminated.

The fact of the matter is, a contract is much more than that. It is a binding agreement between advertisers and their agencies which should identify the terms and conditions that will govern all facets of the relationship, ranging from how an agency is to be compensated to the level of staffing that an agency will deploy on a client’s behalf, to the scope of work to be undertaken by the agency. An effective contract also asserts both parties expectations for how they will conduct themselves while providing a mutual understanding for how the agency will steward a client’s marketing investment from a performance, financial and legal perspective.

Unfortunately, when it comes to contracts, there are too few “industry standards” within the advertising marketplace, varied definitions for descriptive terms and too often a lack of clarity around what is being represented by certain aspects of the agreement language. These gaps create gray areas which are seldom understood, much less agreed to by both parties. Unchecked, these gaps can be costly, particularly to advertisers that aren’t supported by knowledgeable industry experts and attorneys with solid industry experience.

As contract compliance auditors we have reviewed hundreds of Client-Agency agreements and have sat across the table from advertisers and agencies to help mediate gaps in understanding over even the most basic terms or representations. Examples include the definition of “Gross Media,” the assumption that individuals listed in an agency “Staffing Plan” are full-time employees of the agency (rather than contractors or part-timers) and or whether or not the awarding of work to agency affiliates is allowed, let alone how that activity is to be billed.

Let’s examine the financial impact of one of these items. Hypothetically, an advertiser with a $100 million media budget engages a media buying agency. The agreement indicates that media is to be placed on a net basis and that the agency will be paid a commission of 2% on that activity. This appears to be a relatively straightforward description. So the question is; “How much commission should the agency earn?”

  1. $2,000,000
  2. $2,040,000
  3. $2,353,000

It would not be unusual for a lay legal or procurement advisor assisting an advertiser in drafting or reviewing contract language to assume that the answer was 1) $2,000,000. Their assumption in this instance is that the agency’s commission would be calculated by multiplying the net media spend by the agreed upon commission rate.

On the other hand, a seasoned agency finance executive would advocate that the correct answer is 3) $2,353,000. How did they arrive at this figure, which is $353,000 higher than the prior scenario? By “grossing up” the net media spend by 17.65% and then multiplying that total by the agreed upon commission rate. Why would they do this? The answer would likely be; “that is the standard methodology used in the industry.”

This view has its roots in the golden days of advertising, when agencies delivered “full-service” and earned a 15% commission on their clients’ gross advertising investment. In that era, a biller would have to mark-up a net expenditure by 17.65 % in order to account for the 15% commission rate:

  • 15% divided by (100% – 15%) or 85% = .1765
  • If the net expenditure was $85, the total cost would be calculated by multiplying or “grossing up” the net amount by 1.1765 to arrive at a total cost to the advertiser of $100.
  • On the $100 gross expenditure the agency would earn $15 or 15%.

One might legitimately question why an agency would gross up a net expense by 17.65%? After all, it has been many years since full-service agencies were compensated at that rate. Should not the mark-up amount be specific to the negotiated commission rate? Using this approach for the 2% commission example could suggest that the correct answer to the aforementioned question would be 2) $2,040,000:

  • 2% divided by (100% – 2%) or 98% = .0204
  • $100,000,000 net media “grossed up” would be calculated by multiplying the net amount by 1.0204 to arrive at a gross amount of $102,040,000.
  • The agency’s commission on the grossed up media total would be $2,040,000

So which methodology represents the proper approach for calculating an agency’s commission in this example? Unfortunately, there is no definitive answer. This is a classic case where had a term such as “Commission” or “Gross Amount” included an example of how such formulas were to be applied, it would have clarified the intended agency remuneration, staving off a potentially difficult conversation between client and agency long after the ink on the agreement had dried. We can all learn from the words of the 18th century Scottish philosopher, Thomas Reid:

There is no greater impediment to the advancement of knowledge than the ambiguity of words.

 Interested in a securing a second-opinion regarding the clarity and soundness of your organization’s agency agreements? Contact Cliff Campeau, Principal of AARM at ccampeau@aarmusa.com.

The Ad Viewability Debate Rages On

05 Jan

ad viewabilityThere has been much discussion in the wake of the Interactive Advertising Bureau’s (IAB) mid-December release of their proposed “standard” for the measurement of digital media delivery in 2015. 

Advertisers, agencies and publishers should celebrate the progress being made and the healthy nature of the dialog now occurring between each of the participating stakeholders in this important sector of the global advertising marketplace. Having said that, the pace of change and the level of investment being made by the three major industry associations whose members have the most at stake has been disappointingly slow. 

By way of background the Association of National Advertisers (ANA), American Association of Advertising Agencies (4As) and the IAB formed the Measurement Makes Sense (3MS) task force in 2011 with the goal of “fixing digital measurement.” According to the IAB, the three industry groups have spent $6 million collectively in pursuit of this goal.  

Not to diminish either the effort or the investment, during this same time frame digital spending has increased from $86.6 billion in 2011 to an estimated $142.0 billion in 2014, up 17.2% year-over-year, is forecast to represent 30% of global ad expenditures in 2015 and will likely eclipse TV spending by 2017. Which in this author’s humble opinion supports the observation that the industry has simply not done enough to remedy the limitations that exist when it comes to validating digital media delivery. 

On the surface, many were surprised at the progressive stance taken by the IAB in suggesting that the industry adapt a “70% viewability threshold” for measured impressions in 2015. The question others are asking is, “Progressive relative to what?” The IAB suggested that up until its proposed 2015 transitional guidelines that the “industry standard” was a definition of viewablility issued by the Media Ratings Council (MRC). The MRC’s definition considered a desktop display ad to be viewable if 50% of the ad’s pixels were in view for at least one second and two seconds for desktop video ads.  

It should be noted that the MRC’s definition, which was introduced in the spring of 2014, was never adopted by the advertising industry as a standard to guide publisher/ advertiser negotiations. Thus, it was no surprise when the 4A’s immediately issued an opinion to its membership to reject the IAB’s online viewability guidelines. According to one industry executive, Todd Gordon, EVP of Magna Global, a leading media planning and buying agency, “Running a campaign and paying for 30% of the ads not being viewable isn’t acceptable to us or our clients.” 

In the press release announcing their proposed 2015 guidelines, the IAB trumpeted the “shift from a served impression to a viewable impression” as “yet another step to greater accountability in digital media.” So it was something of a surprise and contradiction to learn that the first of their seven proposed “2015 Transaction Principles” suggested that “all billing continue to be based on the number of served impressions during a campaign.” Additionally, the proposed guidelines segregate served impressions into two categories, measured and non-measured, with the 70% viewability guideline applying only to measured impressions. Understandably, advertisers might view this as something of a disconnect as it relates to the transition to a viewable impression standard. 

We understand that digital campaign viewability measurement is a challenging proposition due to variances in the types of ad units being utilized and the different audience delivery measurement methodologies in use today. However, the IAB’s proposed guidelines continue to place the lion’s share of the financial burden for these shortcomings square on the backs of the advertiser community. Given that the composition of the IAB’s membership is largely made up of publishers, which have benefitted tremendously from the dramatic growth in digital media revenues, we believe that the 4As was right to reject the IAB’s proposed guidelines, with the goal of pushing for a more balanced standard, with more aggressive viewable impression delivery guarantees. 

And while continued dialog between the ANA, 4As and IAB on this topic is encouraging, we know from experience how long and arduous a journey toward an industry “standard” can be. It is for this reason, that we applaud the efforts of those advertisers and their agencies that have taken matters into their own hands and begun to eschew digital ad inventory of questionable value or with limited delivery guarantees. It has been reported that advertisers such as Kraft, for example, have “rejected up to 85%” of the digital ad inventory offered to them.  

Historically, we know that when advertisers self-police their ad investments, audit contract compliance and supplier performance and withhold ad dollars where appropriate, agencies and publishers will begin to take the notion of transformative change as it relates to digital media much more seriously. As Kevin Scholl, Digital Marketing Director at Red Roof Inn aptly stated in a recent Adweek interview on the viewability issue, “If we were buying in spaces with lame guarantees, we had to question continue buying there – or evolve how were buying.” 

Let us know your thoughts on this important issue by emailing Cliff Campeau, Principal at Advertising Audit & Risk Management at ccampeau@aarmusa.com.

 

 

Are Advertisers Willing to Forgo Effectiveness for Efficiency?

25 Jun

digital marketing spendIt was with great interest that I read Advertising Age’s article on 2013’s record setting ad spending levels for the “Top 100” advertisers.

Ironically, it wasn’t the total spending level of $108.6 billion, the 4.6% ad spend growth projection for 2014 or the fact that Ad Age’s leading national advertisers “accounted for about two-fifths (42.2%) of all U.S. measured-media spending in 2013” that intrigued me.  What caught my attention was the commentary from senior ad agency executives to various Wall Street analysts about the reasons behind their company’s higher share of spending in the digital media space.

The article quoted a handful of CEOs and CFOs touting their firm’s move to lessen their reliance on traditional media by increasing ad spending on digital media with the goal of realizing greater efficiencies.  Interestingly, there was no reference to improving the effectiveness of their advertising investment.  To be fair, perhaps they believe that spending more of their ad budget dollars in this low-growth environment (ad spending growth is outpacing company revenue growth) on digital will be more effective.

It makes you wonder about the extent to which the leading national advertisers have refined their attribution modeling to reflect the impact of an exposure to their messaging on a cross-platform basis.  Have they solved for the question on everyone’s mind regarding how various delivery channels such as television, print, OOH, online display and particularly owned media, impact consumer awareness, intent and purchasing behavior?  You would think so.  How else, could advertisers justify upping the share of spend on digital to nearly 25% in aggregate on an industry-wide basis?

In the proverbial “good ol’ days” budget allocation decisions were based largely on results attained as opposed to such a heavy emphasis on “what” something cost.  One had to balance effectiveness and efficiency if an advertiser was going to maximize their return-on-marketing-investment (ROMI).

No one argues the inherent benefits associated with digital media today when it comes to dynamic messaging, behavioral targeting and selecting relevant media inventory that is aligned with audience media consumption actions on a real-time basis.  Additionally, most industry participants realize that digital will become a much more viable media forum from an advertising perspective as time goes by.

The challenge with digital media for advertisers is primarily one of confidence.  Confidence in knowing that a high percentage of a dollar directed to a publisher website actually makes it to that site, that its messages have an opportunity to be seen and that the responses being generated to its ads are from target audience members and not bots and that participants in the social sphere are receptive to advertiser interaction.  Absent solid cross-platform audience measurement tools, transparency into the various links in the digital media chain and the ability to accurately gauge response, it may be a risky proposition to spend two out of every five budgeted ad dollars on digital media.

That said, it is clear that the digital “train” has left the proverbial station.  The good news is that advertisers, agencies and publishers are working with their respective industry associations to address some of the issues which need to be dealt with in the context of digital media.  However, history would suggest that an industry wide mandate or set of solutions could be some time coming.

So, what can an individual advertiser do to enhance their control over the digital portion of their ad spend in the near-term?

Perhaps the best place to start is to engage their agency partners in candid conversations to map out the risks and uncertainties in and around digital delivery with the goal of identifying various means to mitigate those risks.  Tighter controls, improved performance monitoring, more timely and thorough campaign post-buy analysis and more rigorous financial stewardship processes between advertisers and their agencies and third-party vendors can certainly play a role in this area.

Industry practitioners certainly understand the role of experimentation and the need to stay abreast of change within the media landscape.  As such, the potential benefits of digital media in all of its forms, merits attention.  However, when a media channel accounts for 40%+ of industry ad spend it is clear that we’ve moved beyond the “experimentation” stage.

It is right to applaud the pioneering spirit which advertisers have exhibited in so rapidly evolving their media mix to integrate digital into the fold.  Given that total digital media spending was $19.9 billion in 2009 (source: Jupiter Research) and in five short years later eMarketer is forecasting that 2014 global digital media spending will eclipse $137.5 billion, it is clear that advertisers are blazing new trails.

Merriam-Webster defines the term pioneer as; “a person who helps create or develop new ideas, methods, etc.”  The marketing definition of pioneer, however, has often been described as: “a person with an arrow in their back.”  The moral of the story?  Proceed with caution and a complete understanding of the risks/rewards inherent with aggressively moving into what is still an emerging media… at least from a performance validation perspective.

Interested in learning more about safeguarding your digital media investment?  Contact Cliff Campeau, Principal at Advertising Audit & Risk Management, LLC at ccampeau@aarmusa.com for a complimentary consultation on the topic.

 

Is the Tide Turning on Trolls?

30 Dec

patent trollsWhat is a “troll?”  Simply stated, a troll is an entity that purchases a patent and or copyright, often from a bankrupt firm, and then enforces their rights against those who infringe upon their  rights… even though they have no intent to produce or license content, no software development capabilities, no manufacturing capabilities and no intent to use their patents.  A troll’s sole reason for being is to assert infringement claims against industries and or individuals to collect fees.

For unwitting defendants the costs can be staggering, while the legal expenses of the trolls (often groups of attorneys) are relatively small.  Couple this with the fact that the trolls typically sue to enforce their rights in “plaintiff-friendly” forums such as certain districts in the state of Texas, defendants are often forced to seek resolution by settling cases without the benefit of due process.

Needless to say, the omnipresent threat of these trolls and the potential costs associated with litigation have had a stifling effect on business innovation, particularly in the marketing area where the use of third party content, software applications, widgets and links have exploded in the era of digital media.

Consider the perspective of White Castle’s Jamie Richardson, Vice President of Government and Shareholder Relations who testified before the House Energy and Commerce sub-committee in November, 2013 on behalf of the National Restaurant Association.  During his testimony, Mr. Richardson indicated that his organization had faced patent infringement claims for the use of tools ranging from online store locator applications to the company’s use of QR codes on packaging during promotional events and its use of hyperlinks in social media.  According to Richardson, “These examples have major implications for the future of our promotional and loyalty programs, development of our website, and the enhancement of our mobile smartphone app.”

Well, perhaps the tide is finally turning against the trolls.  In a recent court ruling in the East St. Louis district of Illinois, a Federal judge ruled against a group of attorneys accused of being “copyright trolls.”  In the case in question, the attorneys obtained copyrights to adult movies and then brought suit against individuals and entities that downloaded those movies.  In issuing his ruling, U.S. District Judge G. Patrick Murphy called the actions of the plaintiffs (three lawyers) “abusive litigation” and ordered them to pay the defendants $265,000 to cover their court fees and legal costs.

This action, while small in the scheme of the National blight which trolls have inflicted on the U.S. economy, it is a moral victory which is significant in light of the trend of courts and judges around the country becoming more critical and more outspoken on this topic.  Perhaps most enlightening was the language used by U.S. District Judge Otis Wright II in California, who when issuing a recent order in a copyright’s infringement case stated, “So now, copyright laws originally designed to compensate starving artists allow starving attorneys in this electronic-media era to plunder the citizenry.”

The aforementioned East St. Louis district ruling provides evidence that the executive actions and legislative recommendations issued in June of this year by the Obama Administration may in fact have teeth, contrary to the prevailing sentiment at the time.  It should be noted that one of the legislative changes recommended to Congress was to allow Federal Judges to force abusive trolls that lose in court to pay the expensive legal fees of those that they sue.

While the war against infringement rights “piracy” is far from over, the tide just may be turning against non-operating entities seeking to exploit their patent and copyright ownership interests.

If you are interested in learning how your exposure to “Trolls” can be managed in the context of your agency agreement, contact Cliff Campeau, Principal of Advertising Audit & Risk Management at ccampeau@aarmusa.com.

 

 

 

Advertising Financial Monitoring

30 Dec

????????????????????????????????????????What is it?  Should a marketer consider it?  Should it be done out-sourced or done in-house?  Three great questions as it relates to a growing aspect of marketing accountability.  

Let’s start with a brief overview of the advertising financial monitoring function and its role.  Marketers have historically made significant investments in advertising ranging anywhere from 1.5% to 5.0% of gross sales, depending on their category, market position and growth posture.  Many organizations have struggled to establish a causal relationship between this investment and in-market performance results; overall, by product, by marketing mix element and or by agency partner.  The goal of advertising financial monitoring is to provide timely, relevant feedback on the stewardship of advertising investment across geographies, brands, agencies and disciplines. 

An effective advertising financial monitoring program provides a streamlined framework for timely capture and analysis of data to yield insight into handling of the organization’s marketing budget and performance of agency partners.  Corporate strategy and accountability protocols serve as the basis for developing the processes to be employed.  And the advertiser’s individual contracts with agency partners establish the performance metrics to be tracked and reported on.  

How many marketing services agencies does your company employ?  It is not atypical for an advertiser to utilize dozens of agencies to formulate and execute the advertising and marketing plan; Full-Service Agency-of-Record, Creative Services Shops, Media Agencies, Diversity Shops, Digital Agencies, Public Relations Firms, Social Media Shops, Regional Marketing Firms, Shopper Marketing Specialists, Event Marketing Agencies, Direct Response Shops, Sale Promotion Agencies, etc…   

In our contract compliance, fee reconciliation / billing, and agency performance review experience, one of the biggest shortcomings is a lack of clarity around “Who Owns” the agency relationship.  A weakness often resulting in overlapping agency responsibilities, limited agency oversight or control, lack of performance monitoring and limited transparency into an agency(s) stewardship of client resources.   

What is your annual marketing spend?  $75 million?  $650 million?  What would efficiency gain in the range of 1.5% to 9.0% mean to your organization?   This is a typical return-on-investment for improved and focused accountability.  Beyond financial yields, benefits are derived from a streamlined data gathering process and a constant flow of process improvements.  Most importantly, advertising financial monitoring will positively shape agency behavior for resource investment and in-market performance.  In the words of Michael Josephson: 

“What you allow, you encourage.” 

Outsource or Build?  It’s the same old discussion – most organizations don’t have the requisite technology or resources to architect, implement and manage such programs in-house.  As well, there is the significant benefit of having access to niche counsel which compliments in-house marketing, procurement, and finance team knowledge. 

As a result, each stakeholder in the marketing planning and investment cycle becomes awakened to the potential for achieving heightened levels of performance.   That is a good thing. 

Interested in learning more about the benefits of an “Advertising Financial Monitoring” program?  Contact Don Parsons, Principal at Advertising Audit & Risk Management at dparsons@aarmusa.com for a complimentary consultation on this topic.

Marketing Accountability. Who Owns It?

03 Nov

marketing accountabilitySeems like a straight forward question.  And the answer is vital to the success of an organization’s marketing accountability initiative. 

From a functional perspective, should it be Marketing, Finance, Procurement or Internal Audit?  Should the CMO, CFO, CPO and or their lieutenants take the lead?  And of course the real zinger; “Whose budget will cover the cost of the initiative?”

Simple questions?  Yes, but with answers that have organizational implications that frequently pose significant impediments to fielding a marketing accountability program.  The reasons cited range from “We’re short-staffed” to “We want to do it, but budgetary constraints won’t allow for it this FY.”  Thus, for most advertisers, their marketing accountability initiatives are DOA.  It’s a shame when you consider the hundreds of $millions in marketing spend committed annually with little in the way of contract compliance auditing, financial reconciliation, performance monitoring or independent oversight. 

The obvious question for stakeholders is: “Would you play it so loose if it were your own money?”  Probably not.  Truth be told, accountability is everyone’s responsibility and is a pillar of good corporate governance.  The tone is typically set by the CEO and over time, becomes part and parcel of an organization’s culture. 

From a marketing perspective perhaps the best model to consider is a multi-functional team of internal stakeholders from Procurement, Marketing and Finance with the source of funding being the marketing budget and the CMO serving as the leader of the initiative.  Why Marketing?  Because Marketing will be the primary beneficiary of the resulting process improvements, efficiency gains and financial true-ups that are typically realized as part of an accountability effort.  Further, while business results, brand building, strategy development, analysis and leadership are skills required of the CMO position, accountability and responsible stewardship of the organization’s marketing investment are vitally important elements as well.

In the end, the organization realizes a number of benefits that will improve the efficacy of its marketing spend, boost ROMI and improve the performance of their marketing services agency network:

  • Enhanced agency stewardship systems (i.e. contracts, compensation and evaluation systems)
  • Improved controls, transparency and reporting
  • Efficiency gains
  • Improved financial stewardship practices

So what are the critical components of a marketing accountability program?  At its root, it begins with the clear articulation of the organization’s business objectives, marketing goals and expectations of each stakeholder group involved in the marketing process.  One of the most critical stakeholder groups is the organization’s marketing services agency network.  A well-conceived marketing accountability program will help both advertiser and agency align resources with the organization’s goals.  In turn, these decisions will ultimately drive decisions regarding roles and responsibilities, deliverables, agency staffing, remuneration and the criteria that will be utilized to assess performance. 

Successful accountability management programs are not one-and-done propositions.  They involve implementing and executing a system which has an ongoing monitoring component.  Often times, this may include utilizing independent auditors to help instill the requisite feedback and control processes into the culture of the advertiser and each member of their marketing services agency network. 

Marketing accountability and the attendant activities associated with these initiatives (i.e. performance monitoring, compliance testing, independent auditing) form the basis for organizations to ensure that the millions of dollars spent on marketing are tracked appropriately.  More importantly, these actions will afford an advertiser the opportunity to drive each of the stakeholders that comprise their marketing supply chain to extraordinary performance.

Follow Blog

RSS Feed

OR

Enter your email address to follow this blog and receive notifications of new posts by email.

Featured Posts

Sign-up for a complimentary “Mitigating Market Risk” Consultation.

sketch_auditJoin our community of global advertisers who seek marketing investment transparency and improved stewardship.

Click Here to Subscribe