The roaring silence of multinationals on transparency

Stephen Wright, Programmatic Media
By Stephen Wright, Programmatic Media | 22 March 2017
Stephen Wright

On Tuesday evening the AANA ran an event The Media Challenge: Achieving Transparency and Effectiveness to Drive Business Outcomes.

It included an interview with Bob Liodice the CEO of the ANA in the US and an excellent presentation from Nick Manning, Chief Strategy Officer of Ebiquity from the UK.

The occasion was primarily to rally the support of local Advertisers behind a global move to regain control of the media supply chain, particularly in the area of programmatic.

The issue has been well publicised of late and I won’t regurgitate the background to the event but for me there were two new insights provided by the AANA and an overriding unanswered question that warrant further discussion.

The two insights provided by Sunita Gositer of the AANA were in the forms of quotes from their members:

The first a belief by some marketers that around 80% of the price they pay goes to the publisher.

The second an admission by marketers that they have such a limited understanding of programmatic they don’t know where to start in addressing the issue.

These two insights are concerning and suggest the Australian marketplace has a long way to go in achieving the goals outlined.

If clients believe that only 20% of the funds they pay are lost in the supply chain the problem shrinks significantly in scale.

The true figure of 60% lost in the supply chain (or more) is a far more pressing issue and the misconception of this supply chain bleed goes hand in hand with the lack of knowledge and understanding of many marketers.

But all of this could be effectively managed and resolved if it weren’t for the overriding unanswered question, which surrounds the approach and willingness of the major media agencies to come to the table.

The six large media groups control 91% of global advertising spend and are the parties that will need to agree to and facilitate the changes to deliver transparency.

A recommendation by Ebiquity of what advertisers should demand includes full disclosure of every dollar within the supply chain and the potential benefits to the Agency through any and every association.

So what is the current position of the big agency groups?

When the issue of fraudulent practices surfaced mid 2016 in the US the reaction of the global groups was hostile and defensive. There was indignation and an inference that this was just a few rogue operators at play.

So with no perceived problem to address their approach has been to say and do very little.

As the issue dominates marketing discussion globally, to quote Nick Manning, “There is a roaring silence” from the multinationals.

There is a steadfast denial to acknowledge the massive bull elephant now rampaging round the room.

So where does this leave us here in Australia?

I have yet to see any PR or public comment from the agencies here on how true transparency and disclosure will be delivered here.

If there are agencies openly prepared to deliver the full set of demands outlined by Ebiquity they would be well served in shouting it from the rooftops.

The inevitable truth is that true transparency will impact the agency’s bottom line. The ‘murky’ and ‘fraudulent’ practices outlined by P&G will be bolstering Agency profitability.

Taking a financial hit in Australia can only be sanctioned by the global chiefs overseas. The phone call to New York, London, Paris or Tokyo to explain why next years profit will be well below forecast is unlikely to be well received.

If advertisers are forcing transparency on unwilling agencies it’s going to be a hard slog.

It will be interesting to see which of the multinational media groups is the first to break the ‘roaring silence’ and get serious about transparency.

Stephen Wright is a director of independent agency Programmatic Media.

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