On Trust and Planning

By The Cog Blog Archives
Cover image for  article: On Trust and Planning

The latest survey by the media consultancy ID Comms on the degree to which advertisers trust their media agencies showed the lowest numbers yet with only 10% of advertisers rating trust in their media agency as "high" or "very high."  Forty percent say that the level of trust is "low" as against 29% a year ago.  None of this should have been of any surprise to anyone, except for those agency CEOs pining for the past who thought "this trust thing" would just blow over.

One of the characteristics that makes agency people interesting is their ability to be curious about everything, which is a good thing except when that behavior manifests itself as a failure to focus on any one issue for very long.  We all know the adage that a reputation takes years to build and seconds to destroy.  Well, the agencies and in particular their traders have managed through their behaviors to set the sector the task of rebuilding its reputation -- which will take years, not moments.

This is really down to the big network agencies owned by the holding groups.  The likes of the7stars, Bountiful Cow, Horizon Media and Goodstuff are all benefiting from living by their transparent and objective principles (and a very good thing, too) but for the sector to flourish it needs the big guys to step up.

From observation there are some promising signs. There's much more talk of planning skills, and of collaboration as opposed to confrontation.  (When did Campaign last carry a headline about ABC agency's trading dispute with XYZ broadcaster?)  Agencies are slowly realizing that the way out of this massive, self-inflicted mess is via planning.  And, furthermore, planning that's worth paying for.  Which means planning that delivers a recognizable business benefit to the advertiser.

This shifting of focus from buying to planning is becoming recognized.  A new study from Forrester which ranks media agencies by their skills across multiple disciplines via a sample of advertisers concludes: "In a programmatic environment, buying clout becomes less important.  The smart agencies are making strides to build consulting, marketing and data analytics services beyond conventional media services."

In the early days of The Cog Blog I was regularly harangued by those agency managers whose route to riches was, given that no one will pay for planning, the future lies in data-fuelled trading mechanisms employed by those bastions of best practice, the financial traders.  That plan hasn't worked out too well, with more and more clients realizing that data is far too important to be left to their agency's often sketchy and under-resourced data teams, and who are thus choosing to take the data task in-house to a greater or lesser degree.

To repeat:  In an entirely related finding, 40% of advertisers say that trust in their agency is "low."

The large agencies pride themselves in having the skills to advise their clients on what to do when faced with a reputational crisis.  At least some are taking a long hard look in the mirror and working out what they can do to best deliver to their clients' (as opposed to their own) current and future needs.

Look after your clients and the rest will take care of itself, as someone probably said.

Disclosure: BJ&A has done consultancy work for the7stars

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