On the one-year anniversary of the Association of National Advertisers' landmark study and subsequent recommendations on media transparency, it's time to review the issues in this ongoing debate and see where we stand today. The issues raised in the transparency debate are complex and dominated the advertising industry's discourse in 2016.
It would be easy to think that media transparency is all about media trading incentives, such as rebates, given the furor surrounding the ANA/K2 Intelligence report, published in June 2016. This sparked a firestorm of debate which overshadowed the full extent and true importance of media transparency for advertisers.
The K2 Intelligence report defined transparency as "the full disclosure of relevant information required for informed and intelligent decision-making." This transcends the financial elements and covers all the practices that comprise effective media stewardship. It embraces all media and the full range of media management practices, from media strategy through to measurement and reporting.
This full range was covered comprehensively in "Media Transparency: Prescriptions, Principles, and Processes for Marketers" which included recommendations issued by the ANA one year ago and was authored by Ebiquity and FirmDecisions. It contains seven key strategic platforms that provide advertisers with the roadmap for effective media stewardship.
However, the ultimate objective for advertisers is to improve media effectiveness and achieve improved return-on-investment. Effectiveness and the demonstration of success should be everyone's aim, and the rewards for successful advertising should benefit advertisers, their commercial partners and the whole advertising industry. Media transparency is an important step towards that objective.
What follows are brief descriptions of the seven strategic platforms contained in the ANA's guidelines to help achieve improved media effectiveness. Click here to read the full breakdown.
1. Agent versus Principal
Where the advertiser agrees to the agency acting as a principal, the advertiser should have disciplined, reliable processes to manage the potential conflict of interest.
2. Contract content
Advertisers should ensure that contracts with their media agencies contain robust provisions to deliver full transparency.
3. Contract audit rights
Advertisers should have robust and far-reaching audit rights which allow them to fully track contract compliance and measure media value delivery.
4. Contract governance
Advertisers should implement strong, disciplined internal processes to deliver contracts which ensure strict accountability, compliance with effective management principles, rigorous process governance and significant senior management oversight.
5. Data and technology
Advertisers should take ownership of data and exert control over the media technology used on their behalf.
6. Advertiser responsibilities
Advertisers are responsible for more active stewardship of their media investments and fair compensation of their agency partners.
7. Code of Conduct
Advertisers and media agencies should establish a culture of trust in their relationships via a specific code of conduct.
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