Will media owners and tech vendors be scrutinised by procurement?

25-30 Billion dollars of spend up for pitch. The whole industry is alive with comment on it. What does it mean for the agencies, who is up to lose the most and so on. The reason for it has been unclear, could it be digital capabilities, transparency, a stagnant commercial marketplace meaning advertisers have to extract more from their business, there have been many suggestions. Perhaps it is a simple as no one wanting to miss out.

All that said, the blog is not about that topic per se, more what impact all of this is having on the whole industry. There has not been too much of a knock on effect to the world of technology, technology that is now powering so much of the agency media landscape. Across the whole landscape deals have been done, tech fees agreed and contracts signed. The tech companies and tech/media companies are sitting back and watching this all play out with little impact to them, at least for now. But how long can that continue?

As all these pitches play out one thing is for sure, media fees will have reduced across the board, one way or another. Not to say that with increased billings they can’t find other offerings and models to make it up but at a media level, they will be squeezed. So those fees are reduced but the tech fees remain the same. The managed services and RTB networks and even one could argue Facebook and Google margins remain solid and published. So at what point does the advertiser start to turn their attention to those parties?

If the squeeze continues then how can an advertiser be happy that Criteo and Rocketfuel are taking 50+ of their IO and turning it into revenue for themselves (published numbers). Is the only answer to that ‘they are not an agency of record?’ If you can squeeze a percentage point out of an agency, how about 10 from the people your dollars eventually end up with? The topics of taking it house and aggressive sales tactics direct to advertisers such as Tubemogul and others also means that they are trying to take the role of the agency and so would surely have to make sure that their every transaction, their every margin on data and tech be revealed.

I think we are entering interesting times and auditors and procurement are going to run out of room on the agency approach, something has to give. In my eyes their valuable media dollars being passed to tech and inventory players will have to come under scrutiny a lot more than today, and if you want to be the partner that dis-intermediates the agency then you will have to answer to the same scrutiny an agency does, not just commercial but standards of protection, payment terms and all the other lovely stuff that goes with it. But first lets start with the 50% of the advertisers dollars that don’t make it into media.

Trading Desks – the latest darling of the Pitch consultant

I will let you into a secret, this whole RTB thing is a real hot topic..I know, I know I hear you say but it is not with the people you would imagine, no it is with the auditors and intermediaries. They have seen an opportunity to turn a buck and are starting to get really interested in the subject.

‘Advertisers think this is a murky world’ is what I hear time and time again, but then I often wonder how they have come to that conclusion. Experience suggests that very few advertisers are engaging to any great degree, that is a shame in my view as we do all our best work with those advertisers who co-build the solution. My hunch is the plethora of intermediaries and auditors who don’t understand this subject and cant see how to make it work in their one size fits all race to the bottom approach to dismantling our industry step at a time. I also think that there maybe some advertisers who have had a bad experience and then try to spread that and tar everyone with the same brush without having a close grasp of the facts and of course, the competition in all its forms.

It is a diverse market place with many different offerings available and everyone approaches commercials and operations differently, so there is no simple way to do this, it is incumbent on communication between us and our advertisers and an ability to talk openly about how and why we do what we do. Audience On Demand for instance in display is 100% RTB, 100% transparent on inventory, buys only VivaKi Verified inventory, takes no position and does not arbitrage so we have a pretty simple approach to life that if an advertiser wants to discuss, we are more than happy to do so. I would say though that we also need to make sure we evaluate all companies in the same way, not just look at Agency Desks but all exchange trading operations.

We want a constructive dialogue in this space as opposed to a series of companies all trying to build their own businesses on the back of the latest hot potato of RTB and through scare mongering. There are so many fantastic opportunities in RTB, Google Search re-marketing, Youtube retargeting, mobile innovation, data design and execution, the best of that work comes through a very close collaboration, if we can do that, we will deliver some great, great work. 



Should advertisers pay more to keep agencies inefficient?

With every year that goes by the advertising community continues to look for more and more opportunity to drive down pricing and increase value from agencies. No one can blame them, a whole auditing and procurement business needs to exist and why should good work or good people get in the way of the procurement officer hitting their bonus? 

There is some irony that the companies advertisers use to drive efficiency also create more and more work for agencies through a pitch process to also justify their role. Meeting after meeting, tests, projects, hands on sessions, formal pitch meetings, digital focus, more forms and oh some pricing at the end. It means that agencies continually come under the strain of having to find new opportunities to earn or save money. Their only their options.

In the camp of saving, we talk a lot about making things more efficient. The whole Trading Desk model has been put under that camp, but you know, perhaps we should look to our media channels that have come with the most history. I find myself wondering why we need different TV buying departments in today’s world. We have teams of people in agencies that all do the same thing, give or take, their roles are clearly defined, they all work on the same systems, there could be no finer example of an opportunity to streamline a business. This is not just about my group but all of them. Do we need multiple buying departments by agency?

I think that if we are to keep up with the relentlessness of procurement and pitching we should do a couple of things. First lets re shape the businesses so that there are some key trading people in London but consolidate the buying into single group operations, based somewhere cheaper, where you train people to come and do a 9-5 job, they get paid, they go home having worked bloody hard.(God forbid you even employ people without degrees?)  Would advertisers be happy with that? Could they stomach the fact that agencies do as media owners do and have multiple conflicts and teams all working together across agency silos? Well that I guess is the core of the issue, if they are fine, all well and good, if they are not then they should pay more for making the agency groups run in a less than efficient way.

Second, lets start challenging the advertisers to change their business for the better rather than be lap dogs and respond to whatever they want. ‘I can be whatever you want me to be?’ We should try more along the lines of ‘your business is structured really badly, you want some good advice?’ Consultancy comes cheap in advertising and media, the advertisers should take more advice, it is designed to help on reflecting the changing landscape. I had a refreshing meeting where an advertiser asked me to challenge him more on how he should structure his business for the new world of RTB and Data. How nice it was to have a decent debate on that, and imagine the possibilities. If only there was more of that.