Why Ad networks can’t become agencies but the reverse is not true.

The latest debate in the display space is whether or not ad networks are going to have to become agencies and go direct to clients to sustain their business. It’s a fair assumption, the likes of Specific and others will hire agency people, create better strategies and approach clients. The latest article can be found here on exchangewire.

It’s a believable concept but one that is out of sync with the way the industry is heading. Although there is a lot of hype around ad exchanges and targeting / data opportunities, within an agency, exchange trading remains a line on a schedule, albeit a complicated one. The exchange space asks many questions of agencies but that is around change and adapting, once its all settled down, it will revert to being an important channel like search and crucially will be integrated into all the other channels.

Over the last few years clients have been on a journey where in the main they have consolidated channels, first digital overall and then they have dragged search in where specialists have held on for some time. It’s not only channels but they are integrating their media agencies both within countries and between countries with more and more international pitches. Anyone in a major agency will have lived that in the last few years. So after all of this integration I think it is unlikely they will want to start farming individual channels out again, especially when it may be big news in the exchange world but within agencies, it’s just another new channel. Time and time again through research, better coordination and integration has shown better results for the advertiser so there is no reason to split out exchange trading.

There is also some realistic areas to take into account. Clients spend 80% of their budgets on offline, 60% of their digital budgets on search, the rest is split all over. So its fine for an adnetwork to go direct but they will never fill the roll of an agency. The agency roll is more than buying and is across all media channels, its events, experiential, etc etc, it’s also highly people heavy and Ad networks have been used to high margins, low headcount.

So direct is fine but will struggle in the UK marketplace, however I think with time the agencies could start to deliver an ad network experience and product within the context of their huge global corporations. Of course there is middle ground, some chameleon organisations that act as an agency or a network, but their offer only goes so far to be a real threat.

I dont think we need to start a war between agency groups and ad networks, I am sure we will all find a way, but I know what side I would want to be on.

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