ANA transparency report three years on: industry update
A 'bombshell' 2016 study examining the way US media buying deals were conducted revealed a culture in which non-transparent business practices were the norm. Three years on, experts discuss what has changed, and what still needs to be done.
Stephen Broderick, Global CEO, FirmDecisions
In the three years since the ANA published its ground-breaking report, we have seen increasing levels of transparency being built into advertiser’s contracts, with many taking steps to work more collaboratively with their agencies as a result. Overall, I’d say that advertisers are taking transparency more seriously, but they’re also faced with new ways of working across the media supply chain and these only serve to complicate the landscape.
Because of this increasing complexity, 100% transparency around the financial details of media trading is harder to deliver than ever. An eye for detail and careful use of language in contracts is vital, as small changes in terminology can often have significant impacts on how advertisers account for their media inventory or access their data.
As an industry we are playing a game of cat and mouse. Just as one knowledge gap between advertisers and agencies closes, innovation forces open another. To keep up, brands must be extra alert to ensure that their contracts align with best practice and are reviewed regularly. As we move full speed towards digitisation, brands need to remain vigilant to maintain transparency.
Christian Polman, CSO, Ebiquity
June 2019 marks the third anniversary of the U.S. Association of National Advertisers’ (ANA) study into transparency in the U.S. media market. The report marked a milestone for advertisers, as the report identified non-transparent trading practices in this critical advertising market for the first time. The publication of the study resulted in a desire among brands to address the issue.
Since the release of the study, we have seen many leading global and national advertisers – as well as industry bodies including the ANA, ISBA and the WFA – take direct action and form working parties to deliver better levels of transparency, in part by introducing template industry contracts.
A lot has changed in the past three years, and while the conversation has moved beyond just transparency, the debate now focuses on trust more broadly. Trust cannot be forged without transparency, and since the ANA report, the conversation has not necessarily moved in a positive or negative way. Rather, it has evolved in an increasingly complex environment, where advertisers need to be constantly vigilant to innovations in the market.
Kat Willox, Director, Paid Media, VaynerMedia London
The anniversary of the ANA report is naturally a time when our industry reflects on the importance of transparency. But three years on the debate has to move forward, focussing instead on the ultimate goal of effectiveness - something that naturally leads to accountability and openness.
Financial transparency is one thing — knowing where money is being spent — as it helps CMOs justify an investment. But agencies should aim to be transparent with their clients about every aspect of that relationship: target audience, how that audience is being reached and the technology being used to reach them and measure effectiveness. It is vital that agencies identify what holds people’s attention and create a message for them, no matter what platform it is on, that they will empathise with.
Effectiveness means focussing on what matters for a business, rather than what matters to the agency. If everything an agency does is measurable and focussed on driving business results, it’s easy to be transparent.
In this chicken and egg situation, measurable effectiveness creates a culture of transparency. There will be much talk about re-establishing trust between brands and their agency partners on this third ANA anniversary. But the debate needs flipping on its head.
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