Marketing Math Blog

Can Treading Water Be Considered Progress?

By Client Agency Relationship Management, Marketing Agency Network, Marketing Procurement No Comments

Treading WaterThis is certainly one question that could be asked after reviewing the Association of National Advertisers (ANA) 2022 report, “Procurement: The Good, The Bad, and The Ugly.

After twelve years since the ANA’s initial report on this topic, marketer and agency perceptions of the role, performance and acceptance of procurement have shown little improvement. While there is a grudging sense of “we’re in this together,” according to this report, client-side and agency stakeholders have not fully coalesced around a common set of goals. Thus, it is no surprise that success for this triumvirate remains elusive:

“Coming together is a beginning. Keeping together is progress. Working together is success.” ~ Henry Ford

Even within client organizations, while most of the marketing and procurement respondents felt that their relationship was “extremely” or “very” healthy, the perception gaps between these two groups when it comes to procurement’s role and performance relative to both its responsibilities and within key disciplines was alarming. Contrasting views in these areas would suggest that the “relationship” between the two functions is more superficial than meaningful. If there was objective, candid communication on these key variables, one would expect a more unified view of procurement’s contributions among team members.

The other striking observation was the continued negative pre-disposition toward procurement held by agency respondents. Most notably, while 54% of procurement respondents characterized their relationships with agencies as “extremely” or “very” healthy, only 15% of agency respondents felt the same. Further, while half of the procurement respondents expressed satisfaction with their marketing and advertising knowledge, no agency respondents shared that point of view. While this perspective may have been justified twelve years ago, it seems unexpectedly harsh and unfair today given the 51% increase in years of “marketing procurement experience” among procurement respondents or that agency personnel are not engaging in meaningful dialog.

Justified or not, agency attitudes in this area will need to be addressed if the relationship between procurement and agency personnel is going to improve. By way of example, commentary offered by select agency representatives and by the American Association of Advertising Agencies (4As) ascribed to the stilted view that to remedy their current perspective, procurement personnel should focus their efforts on “value optimization” versus “cost reduction.”

Newsflash, cost reductions are both an element of an organization’s value optimization efforts and a necessary action during difficult economic times or when performance doesn’t meet expectations. Thus, it is unfair to attribute blame to procurement for an enterprise’s expense management initiatives. This is no different than from the approach taken by agency holding companies and independent agencies when dealing with their suppliers, employees, advisors, and landlords during times when fiscal tightening is required.

Based on our experience, assuming marketing is motivated, we believe marketing is perfectly positioned to take the lead in breaking through the current malaise. Given their P&L responsibilities and attendant responsibility for effectively stewarding their organization’s marketing and advertising investment, they are uniquely qualified to drive stakeholder understanding and respect for procurement’s role and responsibilities.

To this end, the ANA report offers several meaningful recommendations for progress, which are centered on the need for all parties to work together in a more collaborative and productive manner. Importantly, the ANA rightly suggests that this begins with a focus on the relationship between marketing and procurement to gain alignment and present a “unified front” to their organization’s agency partners.

There is much at stake for each of the parties and mutual success is achievable. However, this will require an attitude reset and a renewed commitment to respecting one another’s unique roles and contributions.

“We may have all come on different ships, but we’re in the same boat now.” ~ Martin Luther King, Jr.

 

 

 

 

How Will Economic Uncertainty Impact Your Media Budget?

By Marketing, Marketing Budgets, Media No Comments

costRising inflation, supply chain disruption, COVID-19 and war in eastern Europe are some of the factors contributing to the economic uncertainty facing marketers today.

In light of the current economic climate organizations are assessing their ad budgets and weighing the need for and the impact of media budget reductions. As a result, many advertisers have shifted their focus to improving working media levels in an environment where ad budgets will be closely scrutinized (internally) over the coming months.

One means of increasing working media is to conduct contract compliance and financial management reviews of your agency network partners. Updating MSA language, reviewing billing detail, reconciling fees and evaluating process improvement opportunities will yield hard dollar recoveries and future savings that can be reinvested back into a marketer’s “go forward” budget.

With a complex, multi-layered and often murky media ecosystem advertisers a formal accountability and transparency review process will also generate learnings that can improve brand safety, reduce fraud risks, drive efficiencies and importantly, improve the client-agency relationship Read More

Data Ownership Issues Complicate Things for Advertisers

By Advertisers, Media No Comments
programmatic agency sourcing

Data Ownership

As an advertiser it is imperative to ask one very important question when it comes to data ownership and the phase out of third-party cookies; “Do your client-agency agreements establish standards and expectations sufficient to safeguard and manage your organization’s data?”

While the following article addresses some of the data related complexities in changing media agency partners it also raises key data issues such as ownership, transparency and interoperability that advertisers must have a working knowledge of and the MarTech tools necessary to protect their interests.

How are you approaching data interoperability? Taking a wait and see approach or proactively scoping out potential solutions? … Read More

Can Advertisers Insulate Themselves from CTV Ad Fraud?

By Ad Fraud, Media No Comments

fraudInteresting article on CTV, open auctions, DSPs and ad fraud.

From an advertisers perspective the story sounds all too familiar; “it’s not uncommon for fraud and frequency issues to prevail. Ads may be shown in undesirable surroundings, to fake viewers in misrepresented inventory, or to the same audience on repeat.” Yet CTV is the fastest growing sector of the digital ad market.

Perhaps advertisers should take a more cautious approach, tamping down spend levels until issues such as fraud, server side ad insertion and measurement can be addressedRead More

Programmatic Risks Remain

By Ad Fraud, Media Transparency, Programmatic Buying No Comments

Flying BlindIf you’re an advertiser spending more and more of your ad budget on programmatic media should you be concerned? Consider one of the findings from the 2020 ISBA/ PWC study, which uncovered a “black hole at the heart of the advertising supply chain – 15% of spend, a figure amounting to £2.6 billion (approximately $3.1bn) could not be tracked. It could not be attributed to any parties in the supply chain, and therefore was missing, vanished into nothingness” Read More 

Ad Agency Financial Challenges Require a Balanced Approach

By Advertising Agencies No Comments

ad agencyA recent article from The Drum, a UK based trade publication, raises interesting questions being faced by agencies as they look to the future.

Importantly, balancing the need to attract, develop and retain talent with the pursuit of their organization’s financial goals. It is the author’s belief that the pressure to reduce costs is being felt primarily at the networked agencies.

If accurate, the holding companies may need to get serious about consolidating their agency brands, reducing duplicative resources, trimming overhead and investing in front line employees that are responsible for servicing clients and doing the work Read More 

The Opacity of Programmatic Media Poses Risks to Advertisers

By Digital Media, Digital Trading Desk, Programmatic Buying, Working Media No Comments

RiskThe steady drum beat of warnings regarding the risks of programmatic media to advertisers has been omnipresent for the better part of the last decade.

Recent studies conducted by the ANA, ACA, WFA, ISBA and PwC have reinforced the cost being borne by marketers as it relates to the complex, multi-layered and often murky programmatic marketplace. Below is an excellent article by Keri Bruce of Reed Smith LLP on the opacity of programmatic media, the cost to advertisers and suggestions on how to remedy the issues that exist.

From an advertiser’s perspective, the time for action is now as programmatic continues to command an increasing percentage of media spend. As the studies have found and the author rightly points out “Billions of dollars are being wasted and brands are funding an opaque ecosystem and need to help fix it.” Read Article

3 Reasons Companies Should Audit Their Advertising Spend

By Advertisers, Advertising Agency Audits No Comments

audit

Virtually all client-agency agreements contain both an “audit” and “record retention” clause. The purpose of this language is to afford advertisers the ability to answer the question, “Are we getting what we paid for? Yet, few advertisers ever implement contract compliance, financial management or performance reviews of their agency partners.

There are multiple reasons why the marketing budget, a material expense, and the stakeholders responsible for stewarding those funds (e.g., advertising agencies) have not undergone more scrutiny. Few of those reasons make much sense when compared to the risks and costs faced by advertisers choosing not to periodically assess how effectively their funds are being managed.

Below are three key reasons why we believe that advertisers should exercise their audit rights:

  1. Flaws Tied to Estimated Billing Process – The ad industry operates primarily on an “Estimated” billing basis. Plans are approved by the client, purchase orders issued, and the agency then bills the advertiser in advance for the approved amount. In theory, estimated fees and third-party costs are reconciled to actual costs once a job is closed. However, this does not always occur in a timely or accurate manner. Experience shows that perils abound such as, approved but unspent funds are accumulated by the agency, unused funds are rolled over to other brands/ jobs/time periods for future use, unapproved and non-transparent mark-ups are applied, unbilled media balances are retained for inordinately long periods of time and aged credits are not always returned to the advertiser in a timely manner. In the end, left unchecked, agencies can hold and direct how and when client funds get applied to a greater extent than most client-side CFOs or Internal Audit directors would approve of.
  2. Review of Support for Agency Billings to Client – Because clients are typically billed in advance by their agencies on an estimated basis, and agency final invoicing almost never contains third-party or fourth-party invoice support, the only way an advertiser can evaluate whether agency billings are accurately supported is to conduct a financial review of all underlying billings being passed through from the agency to the advertiser. At a minimum, this includes validating billing costs from vendors to the agency and payments from the agency to the vendors. Further, for direct labor-based remuneration programs, which rely on the accurate entry and tracking of time by agency personnel, advertisers should independently review agency timekeeping system data and processes to validate any time tracking reports being provided. Such reviews should also include assessing the types of personnel logging time (i.e., full-time employees, temporary employees, freelancers, interns, etc.), the staffing mix relative to the approved staffing plan and agency employee turn-over rates on their business… data not always shared with clients.
  3. Performance Validation – Results matter. Whether in the context of compliance with contract terms, attainment of agreed upon goals and KPIs or delivery against planned spend levels advertisers stand to benefit from independent reviews of their agency partners’ performance. Given the increased pressure on CMOs to achieve results, it is imperative they have confidence in the outcomes associated with their and their agency’s stewardship of marketing funds. As importantly, their C-Suite peers routinely question the efficacy of an organization’s marketing investment and to what extent that expense is contributing to the attainment of company goals and objectives.

Audit is not a four-letter word. We have witnessed first-hand the positive impact that an independent review of an organization’s marketing investment can have on both safeguarding and optimizing those funds. These reviews yield solid learning as it relates to improved controls, risk mitigation and efficiencies tied to process improvements. Further, the identification and recovery of funds tied to billing errors, compliance violations, aged credits, rebates, and under-delivery (i.e., agency resources, media, etc.), when combined with the identification of cost avoidance strategies for the future, far exceed the cost of an audit.

Importantly, advertising agencies also benefit from these projects when client-side instructions, process inefficiencies and timing issues (i.e., ineffective briefing processes, disorderly client approval process, short project lead times, the timing of the release of funds, etc.) are brought to light and addressed.  As well, it’s always a great result when the clarification of the intent of certain terms included in client-agency contracts aligns with everyone’s future expectations.

In short, properly structured audit programs, which deal with both client and agency stakeholders in a candid and collaborative manner identify solutions and help to lay the groundwork for implementing the changes necessary to improve the client’s return-on-marketing-investment. As such, Chief Financial Officers and Chief Audit Officers should require marketing to allocate funds in their annual plan to cover this important transparency and accountability program. The cost? Tenths of a percentage of an organization’s annual spend, with financial returns that dwarf the outlay for implementing a formal audit initiative.

Marketing Procurement Delivers Value

By Marketing Procurement No Comments

ValueA decade ago, agencies and marketers winced at the idea of procurements involvement in their space. The relationships between stakeholders were often contentious. Stakeholders on both sides felt that procurement was singularly focused on cost reduction, did not understand the marketing space and was unable to comprehend, if not measure the quality of outputs delivered by high performing marketing/agency teams.

Have these sentiments changed? Yes, for the better. Have advertisers and their agency partners fully embraced marketing procurement? Yes, in many organizations. That said C-Suite executives at most marketing organizations are comfortable with and comforted by procurement and its role in providing oversight for and optimizing marketing spend.

The good news is that marketing procurement teams have done an excellent job evolving their subject matter expertise and furthering their understanding of the needs of marketing teams and their agency partners. Coupled with procurement’s expertise in all facets of supplier management including sourcing, onboarding, contracting, negotiation and risk management, procurement teams deliver significant value to their marketing peers.

Out of necessity, marketers are increasingly focused on brand building and demand generation. For those fortunate enough to have access to a developed marketing procurement team, the opportunity to drive efficiencies while strengthening relationships across their agency network is significant.

According to the Association of National Advertisers (ANA) better than 80% of marketers utilize procurement to review agency compensation. However, that is just scratching the surface of successfully deploying marketing procurement.

In our agency contract compliance practice, we have seen the benefits to marketers of collaborating with procurement. These include support in the following areas:

  • Supplier sourcing, RFP management and on-boarding
  • Supplier diversity management support
  • Agency performance monitoring and financial management support
  • Contracting and annual statement of work support
  • Deduping of agency roles and overlap across agency network members
  • Agency service consolidation including digital asset management and studio
  • Decoupling of production
  • Fostering enhanced collaboration between network agencies and in-house resources

From our perspective, the success realized by marketers and their peers in procurement is greatly enhanced when the procurement team has direct interaction with agency finance personnel. This must go beyond contract, SOW, and fee negotiations to include ongoing interactions regarding monthly fee and budget tracking reporting and the preparation for quarterly business reviews (QBRs).

In the end, all stakeholders desire the same outcome, attainment of the organization’s marketing goals with the greatest efficiency. Achieving this aim is best done through open, transparent supplier relationships, which the successful marketing procurement teams recognize. As American businessman Harvey Mackay once said, “A smart manager will establish a culture of gratitude. Expand the appreciative attitude to suppliers, vendors, delivery people, and of course, customers.”

Advertisers: Did You Get What You Paid For?

By Advertising Agency Audits, Billing Reconciliation, Contract Compliance Auditing No Comments

QuestionPlans are approved, purchase orders are issued by the advertiser to their agencies who then invoice the advertiser on an estimated basis for the approved activity. Reconciling invoices are then submitted by the agency once jobs and campaigns are closed out are submitted. However, these invoices come sans any third-party vendor invoice detail.

So, how is it an advertiser can state with confidence that it received what it paid for?

The simple fact is that unless an advertiser conducts financial audits of its agency partners or it pays on a final billing basis (which is rare), they don’t know if value commensurate to its payments was received.

Think about that. Advertising spend is a material expense and there is little, or no billing support documentation provided by agencies to their clients to substantiate that expense. Given this approach it is fair to ask; “How comfortable should agency CFOs be that their organizations got what they paid for?” Typically, the only window into an advertiser’s approved expenses is agency invoice totals relative to approved purchase orders… not reconciled final billing support from agency affiliates and third-party vendors to the agency.

Along the way, marketing may receive agency reporting in the form of time-of-staff tracking and fee burn reports or job status summaries, but these are best used to generally track spend levels, not to verify purchases. The only way to vouch for the accuracy of an agency’s billing to a client is to conduct a financial management audit.

Unfortunately, the time lag between an agency’s initial billing to a client and final reconciled billing, where estimates are trued up to reflect actual costs can be several months – or sometimes not at all. That is a long time for an advertiser not to have a direct line of sight into the disposition of their funds.

This is the reason that Client/ Agency agreements contain guidelines governing agency financial reporting, time tracking, job and campaign reconciliation and acceptable billing practices (e.g., cost to be billed on a pass-through basis, net of any mark-up). As importantly, it is also why all such agreements contain record retention and audit rights clauses that provide advertisers with the ability to conduct contract compliance and financial management audits.

Based on experience, client-side CFOs should not place a blind level of trust in agency partner billings and financial reporting. Verifying actual costs and time-keeping relative to estimate, and independently vouching agency support is a sound practice – yielding solid learning that forms the basis of process improvements, enhance reporting, and improved controls. This in addition to financial true ups in the form of historical recoveries that more than cover the cost of the audits themselves.

As the saying goes: “In God we trust, all others we audit.”