If they are unable to manage these relationships, they should have “unimpeded access to the platforms, tools and data used on their behalf throughout the programmatic trading process … without having to get access or permission from the advertiser’s media agency or trading desk,” the report said.
Whether or not technology ownership will overburden marketers or accelerate the in-housing trend hasn’t yet been explored by the firm.
“Right now, the crux of this is that advertisers need to be able to make informed decisions, regardless of what path they take,” Bruno said. “The only way to create that is with the right level of governance, contractual terms and conditions.”
And it’s up to advertisers to make sure these contracts are being honored, Bruno said.
“Governance shouldn’t be a one-time thing,” he said. “It needs to be an ongoing process that’s reviewed continuously.”
But part of the problem lies in the overburdened role of the CMO, who has been pressured to take on more media and financial responsibilities in a rapidly changing landscape. The report notes “considerable media management deficiencies among marketers” that could have made room for the transparency issue to proliferate.
Advertisers must get up to speed by enrolling in continuous media education programs with an emphasis on digital media. They should also consider implementing a “chief media officer” with strong knowledge of the space in order to monitor agency relationships.
Unlike the previous report, Ebiquity’s guidelines recognize the pressure agencies have felt from shrinking fees and growing management responsibilities. It suggests that advertisers offer “more active stewardship of their media investments and fair compensation of their agency partners.”
Like its predecessor, this report did not mention names of specific agencies engaging in non-transparent buying practices.
That earlier ANA report, released in June in conjunction with investigative firm K2 Intelligence, found nontransparent buying practices to be “pervasive” among agencies. Fifty-nine out of 117 media buyers surveyed said they were directly involved in some sort of non-transparent buying practices. The report defines these as rebates (in the form of cash, free media, debt forgiveness and equity), principal-based transactions or agencies holding equity stakes in media suppliers.
“Advertisers have several things to do in-house around governance, internal training and really starting to try to keep up with a very difficult media landscape, but externally, they need to have the right amount of transparency and focus with their partners,” Bruno said. “It will start internally, and what will hopefully flow from that is a much more transparent and accountable industry.”