A few days ago the US advertiser trade body the ANA (Association of National Advertisers) published Part Two of its magnum opus into media transparency and related matters. (You can read the summary findings and download the entire thing here.) To remind those who haven't been obsessing over this whole topic, this is the bit containing recommendations and advice for advertisers (or as the ANA would have it, 'Prescriptions, Principles and Processes'). Part One was the investigation proper into what's been going on (conducted by K2); Part Two has been prepared by Ebiquity, the media auditors and consultants and their partners at FirmDecisions.
If Part One laid bare the alleged malpractices of the agencies, Part Two makes it clear that advertisers have allowed these things to happen, and thus it is up to them to take the lead in sorting out how their advertising budgets are spent. Who would have thought it?
It's a little like a child stealing sweets. Of course the child is to blame but if the shopkeeper had been more aware then maybe the sweets wouldn't have been stolen, or if they were then the child would have been caught on CCTV and subsequently punished. If only the CCTV had been there and been turned on.
This laxness on the part of advertisers goes back a long way. The expression "It's only media …" sums it up. Clients, with a few honorable exceptions, haven't been paying attention for at least the last 40 years to my personal knowledge.
It was less of an issue when the choices were limited. (Did it really matter all that much if the agency dealt with ITV at the expense of Channel 4 or NBC benefited at the expense of ABC?) These choices were hardly advertiser-business critical. But in the digital age, with huge choice and so many moving parts it matters a great deal.
The agencies of course point out that they've been negatively impacted by the behavior of advertiser procurement officers. In other words, they stole the sweets because their parents didn't give them enough pocket money.
Some of us might have proposed either making the positive case for a rise in pocket money to allow them to eat more healthily, or if that didn't work then simply living within their means. But it's exciting stealing sweets, and they taste so good.
Sweets aside, the question is: Can advertisers be jolted out of their media apathy?
Ebiquity/FirmDecisions proposes a beefed up Chief Media Officer role, which seems a sensible suggestion. They have also provided a templated contract for advertisers to adapt to fit their own particular requirements, following a similar idea proposed here by the ISBA. Another sensible idea.
Will advertisers take the advice? I suspect many will -- after all, the ANA work has been high profile enough to warrant attention in the boardroom. I also suspect that advertisers' lawyers will be kept busy reviewing and revising their media agency contracts.
Finally, the CCTV cameras will be going up in the sweet shops.
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