The year ahead: reasons to be positive
PwC's Sam Tomlinson outlines five reasons why the media and advertising sectors should feel good about 2019
In early 2018 my colleague Neal Deeprose published an article setting out suggestions for improving trust within the industry. As we look ahead to 2019, how much progress has been made?
1. Advertiser / agency relationships seem to be improving
A recent ID Comms survey suggested trust is falling but that same survey also suggested advertisers and agencies expect trust to improve in the next 12 months. And that optimism chimes with what we see and hear: 2018 included some iconic media agency pitches that explicitly set out to properly reward the winning agency for quality of service, campaign outcomes, and transparency - for example, Barclays (supported by Aperto One) and the UK government (supported by us at PwC).
The trade bodies also appear to be working well together: ISBA published v2 of its media agency framework after wide consultation with agencies and IPA (described as a "brilliant" initiative here), resulting in broad acceptance of its principles and its adaption and adoption in the US and other markets. And the ISBA / IPA "sustainable relationships" project is a further positive sign that advertisers and agencies are focused on aligning interests in a positive forward-looking way.
2. Proven media has a spring in its step...
August 2018 marked a major milestone - the first month in 7 years that print ad revenues rose for UK newsbrands. And positive signs are all around: the Ozone digital ad sales initiative has nailed the myth that news publishers can't collaborate, as has the Unruly Verified Marketplace; the Big TV Festival did the same for television; Newsworks published the Planning For Profit study (by Benchmarketing) to overwhelmingly positive feedback; and the Radiocentre study Re-evaluating Media (by Ebiquity) gathered equally positive reviews, not least because it championed all proven media not just its own medium.
As my colleague Neil Duncan wrote, "It's time to pay attention to the growing body of evidence around proven media."
3. ...and agencies should be feeling optimistic too
It can be hard to generalise, but our experience has been that while in-housing paid search can work well, moving to full in-housing of programmatic contains myriad challenges with cross-platform planning, talent recruitment and retention, benchmarking of campaign performance, learning and innovating. If we were a media agency, we would not be losing sleep over the threat of clients in-housing.
TV planning and buying rarely moved in-house for a reason...our intuition is that programmatic will prove to be the same. (Conversely, we do see merits in the hybrid model of clients taking direct ad-tech contracts for data access and transparency, but leaving them to be expertly operated by agencies.)
4. Ad-tech vendors are starting to see the benefits of transparency
Marc Pritchard's "digital swamp" comments from 2017 continued to reverberate into 2018, reinforced by scandals such as undisclosed buyer fees and bid caching as well as recurring themes around fraud, viewability and brand safety. But now some ad-tech vendors are sensing an opportunity to differentiate themselves through transparency. Six supply-side platforms, led by OpenX, publicly signed up to the Principles For a Better Programmatic Marketplace although it should also be noted that the majority of the six were not yet fully compliant themselves.
And this is where the rubber hits the road: signing up to principles is easy, but turning them into routine corporate practice is much harder. Who will be the first to submit themselves to a full transparency audit of their commercials, algorithms and data governance?
5. Personalised marketing still has a great future in a GDPR world
It would certainly be premature to declare GDPR "over", given that subject action requests, collective actions and regulatory enforcements are only just getting started, and of course ePrivacy is still to come. But what we are seeing is that brands, marketers, technologists and data scientists are starting to adapt, by developing personalised marketing techniques that can work with fully anonymised data.
Personalised marketing still has a great future in a GDPR world! For an inspiring example see how New West End Company is driving business improvements for their 600+ retailers, restaurants and hotels.
So - five reasons to be positive we move into 2019! Now fingers crossed that no-deal Brexit can be avoided too...
Sam Tomlinson leads PwC's Customer, Marketing & Media Insight team