Nothing forces reflection like lost business

22 Aug 2017  |  Bob Wootton 
Nothing forces reflection like lost business

The tech behemoths are endemically dismissive of the responsibilities they hold to their advertisers, writes Bob Wootton. Is that all about to change?

This is usually the time of year when the news is mainly either trivial or stuff people want buried. But this year, there’s much serious stuff afoot even though there’s scant traffic on the roads and everyone seems to be away. Maybe a glimpse of the future, all of us working remotely? It works for me...

The recent joint IPA/ISBA call for greater accountability and accuracy from industry audience and other metrics also reminded us that the rigour with which different media channels are planned and bought is not uniform.

TV channels’ and shows’ audience and profiles and builds of reach and frequency are still pored over using BARB data. Likewise print, these days via PAMCO’s AMP. Radio with RAJAR and out-of-home with Route. All world-class, independent, trusted.

Less so online, despite the UK having world-class online standards (JICWEBS) and metrics (UKOM). We still don’t use the online tools as we should.

It starts, as always, with advertisers, who should demand the same rigours regardless of channel. Then agencies and media owners will have to comply or be embarrassed. Nothing forces reflection like lost business.

“Rubbish, you’ve overlooked programmatic,” you might say. But far from being such a panacea, it has instead got us into a number of right pickles (see also below). Granted, it’s a very nice little earner for some though.

The summer does seem to be prolonging the détente between the broadcasters and the pure play video arrivistes. I’m with the broadcasters - they have historically subjected themselves to standards that make the pure plays blanch, were they not too busy massaging the figures.

And now they seem to be arranging to fight back. Not for us the utterly pathetic ‘half of the pixels for one/two seconds’ that the US has mystifyingly settled for, thank you.

Firstly, GroupM has announced the roll-out of its global viewability standards, and they’re robust.

This is a clear, strong and very welcome sign of a return to rigour in the online space that will also help curtail some of the arbitraging behaviours which readers of my previous outpourings will know I have some pretty grave issues with.

The IPA with evident support from ISBA has also taken the unusual step of calling Google and Facebook out publicly for their sloth in pursuing better safety, viewability and audience metrics.

All the blah-blah from Silicon Valley is about agility and nimbleness and they’ve shown us they’re most capable of moving at great pace when they want. They won’t like this finger being pointed at them, more so as it’s deserved.

Nor would the IPA (and/or ISBA) go public unless normal channels were proving fruitless, which I have little doubt they were.

The tech behemoths are endemically dismissive of the responsibilities they hold to society at one end, and their funders, the advertisers, at the other (whether tax, inappropriate content, enabling of those who would unravel society etc).

Like many large organisations, both have big public affairs teams which dissemble and corporate affairs types - one of whose jobs is to face and stymie trade bodies. (In my day, I avoided these energy sinks, even when the tech giants became clients, ostensibly to leverage such ‘influence’).

So chapeau to our trade bodies for squaring up to these highly-dominant media businesses. This is coming from the top and about time too.

A worry for agencies

Mergers and acquisitions, normally pretty dead at this time of year, continue apace with the management consultancies rattling the industry with their purchases. While Deloitte has now bought three agencies in the past year, Accenture has also been busy with Karmarama and latterly leading marketing skills consultancy, Brand Learning.

Taking a leaf from many media and agency businesses - and even trade bodies - Accenture has recognised that the best way to achieve deep influence in the medium term is through educating clients, existing and potential. And what better and quicker way to begin than by acquiring a recognised leader in its field.

Returning to the tech giants, they too know this only too well and dedicate (relatively) large resources to such education, often through sector-specific teams.

As many commentators are remarking, there are clear patterns emerging and they’re not pretty for agencies...

CFO logic

Another significant report from the US Association of National Advertisers (ANA) turns attention to ad production processes and financials, themselves also a subject of a US Department of Justice investigation.

In so doing, ANA deftly reminds us of its 2016 report into media buying, which elicited a lot of huffing, puffing and dissing from the big groups but nevertheless proved seminal.

The World Federation of Advertisers - no, they’re not on holiday either - reports that seven in ten major brands have amended their media agency contracts in the last year to better to tackle transparency, accountability, brand safety and data ownership.

And then the CFO of P&G, one of the world’s very biggest advertisers, qualifies their very public reduction of their ‘digital’ ad budget by saying that he hasn’t seen any business impact.

His irrefutable logic is that if you remove something and cannot see any detriment, it couldn’t have been working.

Fellas, you don’t want CFOs thinking this stuff and are frankly going to have to do rather better than this in response, on which the inimitable Ad Contrarian has already pounced.

...And finally, neither joint newspaper sales nor News Corp’s acquisition of the rest of Sky seem to be able to shrug off continued calls for the intervention of the competition authorities.

So much for a quiet summer, then! I hope you’re enjoying yours.


Bob Wootton is the principal of Deconstruction

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NigelJacklin, MD, Think Media Consultancy on 23 Aug 2017
“The reduction in traffic in central London at the moment certainly makes driving in town easier. There are, however, still plenty of sluggish Uber drivers wandering around, uncertain as to where they actually are and keen to avoid using their petrol or diesel engine. I'm sure there's a technology parallel in there somewhere...never mind the irony of being a loss making disrupter.”

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