Marketing Math Blog

Ad Industry: Lack of Transparency Limits Trust & ROI

By Advertisers, Contract Compliance Auditing, Marketing Accountability, Marketing Agency Network, Media Transparency, Programmatic Buying, Right to Audit Clauses, Supply Chain Optimization No Comments

Trust“Trust is the glue of life. It’s the most essential ingredient in effective communication. It’s the foundational principle that holds all relationships.” ~ Stephen Covey

The question often asked of senior marketers by their C-suite peers and in turn by marketers of their agency partners is: “Are we getting optimal value in return for our marketing investment?” This is a simple question, but one that is not easily answered given the breadth and intricacies of an advertisers marketing communications investment.

Let’s face it, with the pervasiveness of non-transparent fees and AVBs throughout the supply chain along with the number of intermediaries involved in service delivery (often without the advertiser’s knowledge), the strains on working ad dollars are many and can be profound. Combine this with the industry’s “estimated billing” methodology that rarely ever provides third-party vendor invoices to support their billing to clients and it is easy to understand the difficulty advertisers have addressing the question of “did we get what we paid for?”

While the challenges to building trust between advertisers and the myriad of suppliers that touch their business are real, the means of addressing this issue is clear… the industry needs to commit itself to providing full transparency at every level.

Marketers will need to take the first step, reviewing all marketing services agency agreements to ensure that there is adequate language granting them audit rights, establishing record retention criteria and extending these guidelines to not just their agencies, but to third and fourth-party vendors. Further language regulating the appointment and monitoring of “interested parties” by their agency partners and limits to the use of principal-based buys must be incorporated into all agreements. Also, clear reporting and invoicing guidelines must be established with each agency partner to provide advertisers with a clear line of sight into the disposition of their marketing spend at each stage of the investment cycle.

Importantly, marketers will need to invoke their audit rights to conduct periodic reviews of agency compliance with these contract terms as well as validate each agency’s support of their billings to the client. This is a cost of entry for marketers if they’re truly interested in evaluating the efficacy of their marketing investment.

Consider but one aspect of advertising spend, digital media.

  • Digital media represents more than 50% of client ad spend.
  • Programmatic buying represents better than 90% of all digital display ad buying.
  • Publishers only receive 51% of advertiser programmatic ad spend.
  • Costs such as DSP fees, SSP fees and technology costs represent between 15% and 35% of advertisers’ spend in this area.
  • An “unknown delta” of one-third* of programmatic supply chain costs could not be identified.

*Source: Incorporated Society of British Advertisers (ISBA), Association of Online Publishers (AOP) and PwC “Programmatic Supply Chain Transparency Study.”

While alarming, these statistics may represent a “best case” scenario when one considers the poor visibility that exists in the layers of intermediaries between advertisers and publishers, including but not limited to agencies, DSPs, SSPs, Ad Exchanges and data verification vendors… each charging a fee for their involvement. The Association of National Advertisers (ANA), which earlier this year commissioned a study on programmatic transparency, estimates that of the $200 billion plus in programmatic digital media spend “70% doesn’t reach the end consumer.” Where does it go? According to the ANA “it goes to fraudulent or non-viewable impressions, non-brand-safe placements and unknown allocations, as well as being spent on ad fees.”

Take SSPs for example, they typically bundle fees with media costs once an auction is won and an impression purchased. Thus, advertiser visibility into SSP take rates, revenue share deals with publishers, margin realization rates and the number of hops is obscured.

We do not want to belabor the point, but similar examples of limited transparency exist across the entirety of the marketing communications supply chain.

In closing, we believe that the notion of trust is certainly attainable, but not until transparency reform becomes an actionable reality for advertisers. Near-term, advertisers have another reason to push for transparency and audit the financial management practices of their agencies… stagnant and or reduced budget are putting pressure on marketers to do more, with less. The knowledge gained, historical dollars recovered and future savings realized from a formal accountability program can help to refuel marketing budgets.

Ad Industry Trends Pose Real Risks to Advertisers

By Advertisers, Contract Compliance Auditing, Marketing Accountability, Right to Audit Clauses No Comments

Risks

“There are risks and costs to action. But they are far less than the long-range risks of comfortable inaction.” ~ John F. Kennedy

The advertising industry is an important, dynamic, complex, and rapidly evolving part of the global economy. As such, it is susceptible to the same challenges facing other business sectors… inflation, rising interest rates, recessionary pressures and geopolitical uncertainty.

However, there are unique aspects of this industry that pose challenges to advertisers, agencies, media owners and AdTech companies alike. If you’re a marketer and have not conducted a compliance and financial management audit of your ad agency partners, consider the following:

  • The global economic climate is uncertain for the coming year with economic growth projected to slow from 6.1% in 2021 to 2.7% in 2023 (Source: International Monetary Fund).
  • The economic slowdown is causing advertisers to reconsider and often curtail advertising budgets for the coming year, with ad spend growth projected to slow from 8.3% in 2022 to 2.6% in 2023 (Source: WARC “Ad Spend Outlook 2022-23” Study).
  • Media inflation is anticipated to grow by 6.2% or more in 2023 (Source: ECI Media Management).
  • Marketing and advertising expenditures are a material SG&A expense, with organizations spending between 7 – 8% of gross revenue in this area (Source: Deloitte CMO Survey – 2017)
  • The advertising industry works on an “Estimated Billing” basis, with advertisers paying their agencies in advance of expenses being incurred, with the understanding that estimated costs will be reconciled to actual outlays at the time jobs are closed.
  • Agencies can take months to close and reconcile production jobs and media campaigns, which delays the identification and issuance of credits to advertisers, impacting the accuracy of budgets and subsequent planning.
  • Final Invoicing from ad agencies that reconcile advance billings to actual costs incurred rarely, if ever, include copies of third-party vendor or affiliate invoices. Without documentation to support actual expenditures, your Finance and Marketing departments can only compare final billed amounts to an estimate.
  • Almost one-half of advertisers listed “Transparency” as their leading concern when it comes to their marketing investment (Source: WFA survey, 2017).
  • Digital will represent 61% of U.S. advertising spend in 2023 (Source: Statista).
  • In 2022, 90% of all U.S. digital display advertising ($123 billion) was placed programmatically (Source: eMarketer).
  • Marc Pritchard, Chief Brand Officer of Procter & Gamble referred to the digital supply chain as “murky at best, fraudulent at worst.”
  • In 2021 over 20% of programmatically served ad impressions in the U.S. were “fraudulent” (Source: Statista).
  • Digital ad fraud in the U.S. is forecast to be over $80 billion in 2022, representing 15% of U.S. digital media spend (Source: Statista).
  • Between 35% – 60% of U.S. marketers’ digital ad spend goes toward the “AdTech Tax” or the fees spent on each vendor or intermediary down the supply chain (Source: ANA Study)
  • The Association of National Advertisers (ANA) study on AdTech Transparency being conducted by PwC and Kroll, originally scheduled to be released this month, has been delayed until 2023. Digiday reporting cited “conflicted reporting methodologies,” vested interests,” a lack of full participation (i.e., Google and The Trade Desk are not participating in the study) and the complexity of tracking payments between “relevant parties” as contributing factors.
  • The annual agency employee turnover rate is estimated to be around 30% (Source: Association of National Advertisers and Forbes).
  • 96% of consumers “don’t trust ads” (Source: 4A’s 2019 study).

The preceding stats are alarming to both an organization’s stakeholders and shareholders. A marketers’ ultimate leverage and truth lever is the “Right to Audit” clause contained within the client/ agency agreement. Enacting that right, conducting a formal compliance and financial management review of your agency partners to validate actual costs and time-of-staff along with assessing third-party billings makes good business sense. Such reviews result in financial recoveries, future savings, stronger controls, improved supplier alignment, and enhanced levels of trust in a marketers agency network.

Best of all, each of these outcomes has a positive impact when it comes to optimizing your organization’s advertising investment.

Agency Stewardship: Can Advertiser Perspective Drive Success?

By Advertisers, Advertising Agencies, Marketing Agency Network No Comments

partnershipHow do you view your advertising agencies? As strategic partners or vendors? Are you committed to a long-term partnerships or situational relationships?

The answers to these questions shape an organization’s view and treatment of its advertising agency network members. In turn, the approach taken contributes greatly to the level of success that each of those relationships achieves. 

There is an adage that suggests all advertisers receive good service from their agency partners, but great clients receive extraordinary service and superior results. Having spent time on both the agency and client side, I have seen this maxim play out many times. Advertisers that value the perspective and appreciate the efforts of their agency teams attract better, more highly motivated agency team members. 

Agencies that are embraced as valued consultants are more willing to invest in those client relationships. They delve more deeply into understanding key issues impacting an advertiser’s business and go above and beyond when it comes to deploying time and resources to deliver impactful work that can drive a client’s in-market success. 

In most organizations, the monies invested in marketing and advertising are material in nature. Advertisers invest these funds with the goal of driving demand for their brands and building strong end-user relationships that result in profitable business growth. Successful marketers understand that strong agency relationships lead to higher returns on their advertising investment. More importantly, they have acted on those beliefs, developing tools and processes that allow them to be more effective in the stewardship of their agency partners.

C-suite exposure, cross-functional interaction, frequent and effective strategic briefings, streamlined approval processes and candid two-way communication are emblematic of the practices that successful advertisers employ when it comes to managing their agency network. It is no surprise that these same traits are reflective of organizations that take a long-term view of their agency relationships and embrace the notion of a “partnership” when it comes to strategic marketing service providers. 

As Brad Sugars, business speaker, author and entrepreneur once said: “Business is all about relationships… how well you build them determines how well they build your business.”

Super Bowl Advertising: Much Has Changed Since 1967

By Advertisers, Media No Comments

Super BowlFox Broadcasting recently announced that it had sold 95% of its inventory for the 2023 Superbowl. The average rate for a 30-second spot will likely top $7 million.

The growth in the appeal of the Super Bowl to advertisers and the price they are willing to pay is remarkable when you consider that the cost of a 30-second spot in Super Bowl I in 1967 went for $42,000.

Equally as compelling is the unique impact of the Super Bowl broadcast, with the game being broadcast on over 225 different television stations in approximately 180 countries garnering over 110 million viewers.

Interestingly, if we go back just 10 years and adjust the price paid by advertisers using the annual CPI increase the rate for the 2023 broadcast would be $4.8 million for a 30-second spot…  much less than the $7 million per spot achieved by Fox Broadcasting.

The reason for the rate differential is very simple, supply and demand. Demand is driven by the strength of the NFL “brand,” the cultural impact of both the game and the broadcast and the showcase that the broadcast represents for advertisers.

After all, not many other programs attract viewers that are as keen to see the advertising as they are the game itself. It is for this reason, that according to Fox Broadcasting the 2023 event will feature more than twenty “new” sponsors representing over $100 million in ad revenue.

No doubt advertisers investing to run their commercials during the Super Bowl are hoping that their ads can go beyond simply elevating brand awareness and appeal to attain the cultural impact that past iconic Super Bowl ads achieved:

  • Coca Cola – “Mean” Joe Greene
  • Apple – Macintosh (1984)
  • Anheuser Busch – “Bud” “weis” er” Frogs
  • Pepsi – Cindy Crawford
  • Wendy’s – Where’s the Beef?
  • Snickers – Betty White

Already looking forward the Super Bowl LVII broadcast and this year’s commercial offering.

Can Your Agency Support Its Billings to You?

By 3rd Party Vendor Billing Management, Advertising Agencies, Billing Reconciliation, Contract Compliance Auditing, Right to Audit Clauses No Comments

agency financial managementOnce ad budgets have been approved and purchased orders issued, your ad agency generates an invoice based upon estimated costs. Theoretically, this estimated billing is reconciled to actual costs once a job is closed or a campaign has run its course.

Do you know if the process is occurring in an accurate manner, on a timely basis?

Why the question? Firstly, ad agency invoices are not accompanied by third-party vendor invoices that support the billed amount. Secondly, those invoices are often submitted directly to an advertiser’s accounts payable department that is simply checking to make sure the “billed” amount does not exceed the approved purchase order amount.

Thus, the only way a marketer can vouch for the accuracy of the agency’s billing is to periodically request and review agency financial support. This can be done through internal audit or by an independent contract compliance and financial management auditor.

If your organization is not testing the accuracy of its agency billings, corrective action should be taken.

The good news is that client/ agency agreements require an ad agency to retain documentation to support its billings and entitles the advertiser to review that support to assess the accuracy and completeness of the financial detail.

Thus, if you haven’t already taken such actions the path forward is clear… inform your agency partner of your desire to enact your contractual audit rights and issued a request for the requisite files to conduct an historical review of agency billings. This would include third-party vendor costs and payments to those vendors along with agency time-of-staff detail to support its fee billings.

Such reviews are designed to identify potential billing errors, overbillings, aged media credits, earned credits, rebates and discounts that have been earned, but not yet returned, the status of approved but unused funds and the time that it takes the agency to close jobs and process payments to third-party vendors. Given the material nature of advertising spend, fact-based reviews of agency billings are a sound practice that is consistent with an organization’s governance and accountability standards and controls.

Unfortunately, when it comes to auditing this important area protestations from client-side marketing personnel regarding the need for or timing of such reviews or the potential impact on a preferred relationship can scuttle an organization’s efforts in this area. While we appreciate this perspective, we have found such views to be unfounded. In the words of Indian Prime Minister Jawaharlal Nehru: “Facts are facts and will not disappear on account of your likes.” After all, outside of marketing/ advertising spend, how many other suppliers invoices are paid without supporting documentation or a review of such detail?

Experience dictates that periodic financial reviews help to improve processes and tighten agency reporting, providing advertisers with a clear line of sight into the disposition of its funds at each stage of the advertising investment cycle.

Advertising agencies for their part are accustomed to these reviews and have the personnel and processes in place to comply with their clients’ contract compliance and financial management audit requests. In the end, all stakeholders benefit from such reviews. The learnings, financial recoveries and future savings related to identified process improvements identified as part of the audit are important, but no less so than the peace-of-mind that advertisers acquire, knowing that their advertising funds are being properly managed.

Ageism: A Missed Opportunity for the Ad Industry

By Advertising Agencies No Comments

ageismWould you be surprised to learn that only 6 of every 100 employees in the ad industry are over 50 years old? When compared to the percentage of the population adults 50+ make up and the percentage of household expenditures represented by this group, this is anemic to say the least.

The fact that such a small percentage of A50+ comprise the ad industry’s labor force is concerning on multiple levels. Ageism aside, given the current talent crisis and the evolving structural changes being considered by the agency sector, it seems as though organizations would benefit by engaging and retaining a greater number of mature, experienced professionals. So why is this group underrepresented within the ad industry workforce? Hopefully, the agency sector’s diversity initiatives will find a way to remedy this imbalance … Read More

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